Year in Review, Public Art Network preconference
Each year as a highlight of the Public Art Network’s preconference, a panel of jurors presents its selection of exemplary public art projects from the previous year. The 2013 Year in Review jurors were Justine Topfer, Curator, Out of the Box Projects & Project Manager, San Francisco Arts Commission, CA; Norie Sato, Artist, Seattle, WA; and John Carson, Artist and Head of the School of Art, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.From 350 submissions they selected 50 that were completed in 2012.
Since 2000, PAN’s Year in Review uses an open call submission process from which the panel selects up to 50 projects that represent the most compelling works from across the country. This year’s jury prefaced their presentation by explaining that although they had different points of view they agreed on all of the choices and were careful to recuse themselves during the deliberations from those projects where there had conflicts of interest.
In their introduction, the panel explained that this year they noticed an increased number of projects using light and technology, an interesting trend towards multiple or groups of artists working on one project, and the use of different funding sources with an increase in the number of projects initiated and funded by private developers. They also noted that there were fewer land-based projects and that in general it seems that the field is getting broader.
Before presenting their choices they described the criteria with which they based their decisions: Artistic and aesthetic excellence, innovative and original, and appropriate to context. More specifically, they looked at whether the work made a difference in the community, went beyond the usual, used a fresh approach, showed artistic growth by the artist(s), and operated on several levels. The panel then admitted that there were some that just caught their fancy, whether fitting neatly into the categories or not.
Highlights from the selections are below under the five designated categories as presented by the three members of the panel. For a full list of selections there will be a 2013 Year in Review CD-ROM available from the Public Art Network website that includes information and images on each of the projects. http://www.artsusa.org/networks/public_art_network/people_projects.asp
Justine Topfer presented works under the category of “It’s about community” that the panel felt were really serious about honoring and respecting both the place and the people in a specific community. Examples are:
- Troka Troka by Ana Teresa Fernandez - a collaborative project to customize the homespun vehicles used by immigrants who drive around the Bay Area to pick up recyclable materials.
- Iconic Signage Project by Michael Cain – an arts-based economic development project that revitalizes and promotes the small businesses in New Orleans’ Broad Street Main Street corridor using neon signs.
John Carson presented works under the category “Honoring the Environment” that convey a location as well as larger global environmental concerns. Examples are:
- Solar Phone Booth by Beth Ferguson – a project that makes use of abandoned payphones in San Jose, transforming them into public solar powered charging stations and offering a shady resting space.
- Dekumstruction by Buster Simpson and Peg Butler – a bike ride/gathering space/bike rack/storm water management system in Portland, OR.
Norie Sato presented works under the category “Site at the Center” that respond to, reveal, and animate the unique aspects of a site and its context whether architecturally, socially, or culturally. Examples are:
- Weather Report by Spencer Finch – a project that signals tomorrow's weather in lighthouses on the top 40th floors of Grande North and Grande South buildings in San Diego.
- Virga: The Sound Performance by Patrick Marold – a performance that animated a decommissioned train bridge that the artist converted into a pedestrian bridge in Denver.
- Prairie Logic by Janet Zweig – a boxcar sculpture and performance space placed amid prairie grasses on a green roof in Kansas City.
Carson next presented works under the category of “Honoring the Materials” that included work that exploited or explored the potential of materials themselves. Examples are:
- Spinning our Wheels by Linda Beaumont – colorful and hypnotic wheels that spin at varying speeds at the Seattle airport where passengers wait for shuttles.
- Cloud by Christian Moeller – a bookcase at the Dixie State College Library in Utah that appears to be an image of a pixelated cloud but is actually made from the spines of notebooks that can be checked out and in by students who can use them as journals and sketch books.
Topfer presented the final works under the category of “Changing Perceptions of What Was” that included works that used history and that transformed a site by revealing its forgotten past. Examples are:
- The Polygonal Address System by Steve Badgett and Deborah Stratman – a sound-based sculpture shaped like the pentagon that was anchored in the Washington Channel that used recordings of public addresses and protests and was based on Abbie Hoffman’s 1967 action “Levitate the Pentagon.”
- Dark Serra by Glenn Weiss – a self-initiated ground painting on the surface of a parking lot in Houston.
- Henry “Box” Brown: FOREVER by Wilmer Wilson IV – a performance piece in Washington, DC, in which the artist symbolically re-enacted a slave’s act of shipping himself to freedom in a crate. Wilson covered himself head-to-toe in stamps, and walked to a post office where he requested to be mailed.
As the only national program that specifically recognizes public art projects, the Public Art Network’s Year in Review not only extols the most exciting projects of the year but also celebrates the thousands of people it takes to create dynamic public art.