Graffiti: art or vandalism? For some there's an absolute answer to that question, but for most there's room for debate. In New York City, police chief Bill Bratton calls graffiti "the first sign of urban decay," while work from Banksy (and sometimes lesser-known street artists) fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars at New York auctions. Detroit became the latest city to grapple with this question in an official capacity, with city council members previewing ordinances designed to cut back on blight that have brought a somewhat philosophical question into sharp legal focus: How do you distinguish between blight and art in a city renowned (or reviled) for both? Council member Raquel Castañeda-López told Detroit's MetroTimes she and her colleagues are considering a variety of ordinances. One would fine building owners for not promptly removing graffiti on their property, and offer tax incentives for installing deterrents like security cameras. To exempt legitimate works of art, Castañeda-López also said they're looking into creating a citywide registry for street art. That's a complex task, however, especially for a cash-strapped city like Detroit. They're trying to avoid repeating an embarrassing mistake made last year, when city officials issued more than $8,000 in fines to commissioned graffiti galleries along the city's Grand River Creative Corridor. Collectives like the Heidelberg Project and individual artists like Brian Glass, known as Sintex, continue to battle with city officials who must enforce vandalism statutes while enjoying the creative community's substantial tourist draw. Funding for the citywide registry could come from a “one percent for art” program that earmarks public development money for cultural programs. "We're deciding what makes the most sense for the city," Castañeda-López told the MetroTimes' Lee DeVito. The city will schedule public meetings later this month to continue the conversation.
Posts tagged with "public art":
Zinc and glass unite riverfront pavilion and pump house.In 2009, just as construction on its Principal Riverwalk pavilion was about to begin—and following years of funding-related stops and starts—Des Moines-based Substance Architecture received some unexpected news. The firm was commissioned to design a second building, a pump house, on an abutting plaza. At that point, recalled Substance's Paul Mankins, it had been about three years since the firm started work on the pavilion. "There was some discussion in the office about whether the pump house should be an independent piece, or whether it should be formally related to the pavilion," he said. "Our decision was that the pavilion would be stronger if it had this piece as a foil." Using a limited material palette of zinc and glass accented by Jun Kaneko's artwork, Substance succeeded in creating a dialogue between the two small riverfront buildings, despite their differing programs and dates of origin. The pavilion's form was shaped as much by practical circumstances as by a particular aesthetic vision. The Wallace Roberts and Todd (WRT) master plan for the Principal Riverwalk, a joint development of the City of Des Moines and the Principal Financial Group, determined the wedge shape of the site. "We're not a firm that typically does triangular buildings," noted Mankins, "but the inner workings of the floodwall were already in place before we started." The architects were further constrained by a tight budget. Rather than distribute the program across a single floor, said Mankins, "we were able to convince WRT to manipulate the plaza, tip it up to stack the program." The move cut the pavilion's footprint in half and allowed Substance to push the service functions down into the plaza itself, thus decreasing the cost of the envelope. The pavilion's focal element is its glass-enclosed cafe, stacked directly atop the cast-in-place concrete box housing the service functions. The architects created an outdoor seating area by pulling the building ten feet away from the floodwall. This gesture, too, was in part a pragmatic one, as it "eased conversations with the Army Corps of Engineers," said Mankins. "The end result produces an exterior terrace, which is fantastic. But it was not purely a design-driven decision; it was also a political decision." To mitigate solar gain, Substance shrouded the pavilion in folded black zinc that serves as both roof and wall. A broad overhang to the south provides shade in summer without sacrificing the view downriver. On the west side of the cafe, the zinc facade is louvered. "It's basically like an enormous blind with the fins oriented north," said Mankins. "It allows you to view directly north, which is upriver, unobstructed, but it blocks the western sun." The second project, the pump house, entered the mix following the flood of 2008. "We have a storm and sanitary sewer system that's cutting-edge technology for 1750," quipped Mankins. After two 500-year floods in less than two decades, the city decided it was high time to upgrade its flood management system. The pump station designed by Substance contains three pumps, one of which already existed. "There are other pump stations in Des Moines, typically just cinderblock walls around an emergency generator and several propeller pumps," explained Mankins. The architects took a different tack, echoing the neighboring pavilion with a two-part design. They encased the existing pump in translucent glass, then wrapped a triangular zinc wall around the two new pumps and associated components. Below the pump station's zinc walls, Substance used a type of Minnesota limestone deployed by WRT throughout the Principal Riverwalk development. Substance had already worked with artist Jun Kaneko on several pieces for the pavilion. The firm returned to ask for a final artwork, a multicolored glass mural. "When we were designing the pump station, we always wanted this glass mural," said Mankins. The designers collaborated with Kaneko and Germany's Derix Glasstudios on the mural itself, then engaged C3 Lighting Solutions and Commonwealth Electric to design and install an LED system for internal illumination. With the language of limestone uniting them with the rest of the Principal Riverwalk, said Mankins, the pavilion and pump station appear as "two objects placed on plazas formed by flood walls." Their relationship to one another is a (happy) marriage of opposites, thanks to the architects' strategic use of zinc and glass. "One is closed, the other open," said Mankins. "But they're clearly related to one another."
Iowa City this week picked engineer-turned-artist Cecil Balmond to anchor an overhaul of the city's downtown pedestrian plaza. His sculpture will be the focal point of Iowa City's Black Hawk Mini Park Art Project, the first phase of an $11 million streetscape redevelopment project that officials hope to start next year. Balmond's work aims to enliven public spaces with forceful, architectural installations. His studio has strung shafts of light in Anchorage, Alaska, explored the Solid Void of sculpture with a forest of metal filigree in Chicago's Graham Foundation, and woven steel like rope to bridge a Philadelphia railway. The Chicago Transit Authority recently tapped Cecil Balmond Studio to contribute art for an overhaul of the 91-year-old Wilson Red Line station. An artist review panel consisting of Genus Landscape Architects Brett Douglas and Angie Coyer, and Iowa City staff Geoff Fruin and Marcia Bollinger selected U.K.–born Balmond over artists Vito Acconci and Hans Breder. Construction on the project is expected to begin next year.
In a few short years, the term placemaking has migrated from wonky urban planning circles to neighborhoods across the country—that communities come together around public space is no groundbreaking observation, but when successful the idea can be revolutionary on a local scale. So hopes Chicago’s Metropolitan Planning Council, who this weekend will sponsor “Old Place New Tricks,” a bid to “activate” neighborhoods from Englewood to Ravenswood with public space interventions that range from a “healthy eating happy hour” to “Selfie Sunday.” In all 18 events will rally neighborhoods across the city (and in the suburb of Blue Island), starting today and running through Sunday. MPC put together a map of them, which you can explore here. “Placemaking gives people the power to transform their neighborhoods, one space at a time,” said MPC’s Kara Riggio in a statement. “We at MPC hope this challenge provides communities an opportunity to tackle those vacant or underused spaces they've been eyeing for a while. Most of all, though, we hope it's a chance for people to get together with friends and neighbors for a great summer event!” No one’s under the illusion that pop-up art installations and weekend get-togethers can untangle the mess of problems plaguing many Chicago neighborhoods, but there’s hope that a community event focused on violence prevention in Austin, for example, or a peace-themed conference in Englewood may constitute a good start.
Through Saturday night, a public art project by LAND studio is turning Cleveland’s downtown malls into canvases for light displays including sweeping rainbows, iridescent discs, and high-definition projections. “Light Up Cleveland!” runs August 7–9 and is sponsored by a slew of companies and nonprofits. You can see a map and full schedule of events on ahacle.com. The installations include The Global Rainbow, which is visible from miles away, Jen Lewin’s responsive Pool of variegated stepping stones, and Drawing Lines—a maze of ropes strung up across the Cleveland Public Library's Eastman Reading Garden. Artist collective Obscura Digital will project high-resolution light works on the side of the city’s Public Auditorium, using 3D video mapping for a tactile and mesmerizing effect. LEDs abound in downtown Cleveland this weekend, which project coordinators LAND studio say reflects a growing excitement about ongoing efforts to revitalize the city's urban core. “AHA! is the perfect opportunity for people from all over the region to come downtown and enjoy the beauty of our city in a way we have never seen it before,” said LAND’s Ann Zoller in a statement. Earlier this year Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans to mount a similar exhibition along the Chicago River. That proposal was widely criticized as “frivolous,” though city officials maintain it would boost tourism. UPDATE Tuesday Aug. 12: See below for an added gallery of photos from the event, copyright Frank Lanza via LAND Studio. Featured artists include Yvette Mattern, Obscura Digital, Jen Lewin, and Iván Juárez. LAND Studio says the event brought thousands of visitors downtown over the weekend.
Barcelona-based artist Jaume Plensa said the first thing he does after checking into his hotel during stays in Chicago is drop by Crown Fountain, the digital waterwork that features human faces spitting water, just to make sure his popular downtown installation really exists. “Sometimes I think it was just a beautiful dream I had 10 years ago,” Plensa said at a press conference Tuesday. Millennium Park, which turns ten years old in 2014, counts Plensa’s whimsical fountains among its more popular installations. A new piece of his, on loan from the artist through the end of 2015, attempts to build on that momentum. Entitled 1004 Portraits, the new installation features three cast-iron heads some 20–23 feet tall, their tranquil expressions facing west toward Crown Fountain and Michigan Avenue. Walk around the visages, though, and their volume drops away—the figures, all portraits of young girls with their eyes closed, are warped and stretched along their vertical axes. Their names are Laura, Paula, and Ines. A fourth head—this one 39 feet tall, bleach-white, and made of resin—watches over the entrance of Millennium Park at Madison Street and Michigan Avenue. That piece is entitled, Look Into My Dreams, Awilda. (The other 1,000 portraits referenced in Plensa's title refer to the LED projections that cycle through as the backdrop for Crown Fountain.) “I invite everyone in Chicago to dream with me and with my heads in Millennium Park,” said Plensa.
Flint, Michigan kicked off a series of events celebrating education and the arts Friday, unveiling interactive installations cooked up over a year-long after school program local students have dubbed Museum of Public Schools. Produced by the Flint Public Art Project, the ongoing exhibition will culminate in a series of proposals by students to change their school system. Mott Middle College plays host to the ongoing event. “Usually students just experience their own educational opportunity and journeys,” Mott Principal Cheryl Wagonlander said in a press release. “It's rare for them to step out of the role of experiencing and become the seekers of information about how varied educational access and opportunities are in their own community and beyond their own community.” On the corner of South 2nd Street and Saginaw, students installed chalkboards that asked the public, “What is the purpose of education?” Answers varied widely in tone, from sarcastic to self-reflective. The Museum of Public Schools program is just one of several summer events planned as part of the growing Flint Public Art Project’s programming. Upcoming events include a “porch light initiative” to illuminate the city on June 19 to celebrate the day in 1865 when Union soldiers announced the end of the Civil War. More information is at www.flintpublicartproject.com.
June brought good weather to Cleveland, and those who rang in summer with a visit to the Cleveland Public Library encountered an airy installation of white frames and threads crisscrossing the Eastman Reading Garden. It’s not the first piece of public art to active the space outside the Cleveland Public Library. Last year a giant reading nest designed by LAND Studio and New York artist Mark Reigelman took wing in the library’s Eastman Reading Garden. This year’s piece, by X. studio founder Ivan Juarez, is the fifth installation in the library’s “See Also” public art program, which is organized with help from local designers LAND Studio. The program is funded through an endowment established by Lockwood Thompson, a former library trustee and art collector. Juarez will use almost 15,000 feet of rope before the piece comes down at the end of October. Dubbed Drawing Lines, the installation aims to help visitors “discover new spaces, shadows and frames” in the garden, per a press release from the Cleveland Public Library:
“A continuous thread will move across new and existing elements in the garden to filter the natural light and create new passages and spaces to gather and reflect. At the same time, the installation’s architecture is being broken apart. Its walls are transparent.”LAND Studio is also engaged in a makeover of Cleveland's downtown Public Square and a rails-to-trails project along Cleveland's old RTA Red Line.
A new, mid-rise, rental building on Pacific Street in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn looks like many of the new, mid-rise, rental buildings in the borough—at least from the front. The GF55-designed building’s brick and glass facade is fairly nondescript, but around the corner, on the building's eastern flank, a new 45-foot-wide, 75-foot-tall mural could become one of the most iconic—certainly the most Instagrammed—pieces of public art in the neighborhood. The mural, titled Sign Language, was created by Cre8tive YouTH*nk—an arts-based, youth development collective—and overseen by street artists Chris Stain and Billy Mode. The building’s developers, Quinlan Development Group and Lonicera Partners, commissioned the project, which was unveiled at the under-construction building in May. The mural is an adaptation of a 1978 photograph taken by celebrated photojournalist Martha Cooper and depicts a young boy climbing up a street sign to grab a bicycle tire. Cooper worked with the students on the mural and appeared at its unveiling. To take her photo and turn it into a multi-story mural, the young artists essentially broke the image up into about 90 pieces. Those pieces became panels that were individually painted offsite. Putting those panels in place added another challenge because they were installed before the building was actually completed. “Normally with a mural you paint directly to the building, so you adjust your design to the building on-site,” said Mode at the unveiling. “With this, there was a bunch of back-and-forth with the architect. We gathered a lot of information about where windows were going to land, the colors, the cutouts.” The developers said that they commissioned local artists for the mural as a way to add something unique to the project, and to the neighborhood. “They wanted to do something cool that had some aspect of the community,” said Jerry Otero, the founder and director of Cre8tive YouTH*nk. “Not just about it, but that was it somehow.” As new developments continue to rise in Downtown Brooklyn and its surrounding neighborhoods, there will be many opportunities for developers to do something like this—to turn an otherwise blank wall into a canvas. And if at least some of them do, it could go a long way in adding design into an area many believe is being overrun with generic architecture.
An art installation along Philadelphia’s Northeast Amtrak corridor is adding some color to the travel experience for 34,000 daily riders. Berlin-based artist Katharina Grosse has been commissioned by the city’s Mural Arts Program to transform seven sites alongside the tracks with vibrant (and environmentally friendly) coats of paint: Orange and white streak across a warehouse, green and white do the same on an abandoned brick structure, and hot pink cover brush and boulders. The installation, titled psychylustro, began unveiling itself in late April and will “unfold in a series of seven passages—from vast, dramatic warehouse walls to mall buildings and stretches of green spaces—meant to be framed through the windows of the moving train, creating a real-time landscape painting that explores shifting scale, perspective and the passage of time.” The Mural Arts Program has committed to maintain the work in “world-premier conditions” for its first six months. After that, the installation is intended to age, weather, and disappear altogether.
A nonprofit in Detroit is calling on artists and designers “to breathe new life into the historical viaducts at Second and Cass Avenue in Midtown.” In partnership with the New Economy Initiative, Midtown Detroit, Inc. will sponsor public art and light installations in the TechTown District of Midtown Detroit. Accepted proposals win $75,000 per viaduct. The deadline to apply is Wednesday, April 30. Applicants can propose interventions for one or both viaducts. Apply here. The two viaducts, located between Baltimore and Amsterdam Streets in TechTown, were fully operational railroad bridge grade separations. Originally constructed in 1934, they’ve fallen into disrepair. While Detroit’s been happy for international design attention in recent years, this competition has a residency requirement. It’s open to “all professional artists, architects, designers, design firms and/or teams consisting of these entities located in the following eight southeast Michigan counties: Genesee, Lapeer, Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, St. Clair, Washtenaw and Wayne.” Non-residents can join a design team as long as the project lead can prove physical residency in southeast Michigan. Read the full list of guidelines here.
It’s open season for public art in St. Louis, according to the groups behind Sculpture City St. Louis 2014—an ongoing festival “intended to draw attention to the rich presence sculpture has in the visual landscape of our region.” The programming leads up to and continues after an April conference. Art exhibitions throughout the year aim to continue the conversation. For instance, Art of Its Own Making, a show at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts that features sculpture, installation, film, and performance works through August 20. St. Louis Sculpture City showcases public art, sculpture, and design throughout the year, before and after its April 10–12 conference “Monument / Anti-Monument,” which will encourage dialogue about art and public life. A full list of the shows and events that make up the ongoing examination of public art is available on the group's website. Non-profit institutions, for-profit enterprises, and government/civic art programs with programming within 100 miles of downtown St. Louis during 2014 can submit their program to Sculpture City St. Louis, which may list them on their website. St. Louis is a fitting place for the topic. From the two-block sculpture park dubbed CityGarden to plans for a revamped park at the base of the Gateway Arch, it’s a busy time for public space in St. Louis.