This semester we have examined some of the social structures and critical theories that exist around social practice art. How are these conversations happening in other places around the city and how are they negotiated outside of our classroom? I would like to conduct an interview with Karen Henry at the City of Vancouver: Public Art Program to learn more about the role of administration in contemporary public art – what It’s Like to work for public art In Vancouver, and what the future might look Like or relational-aesthetic art-works in this city.
Subject matter/Areas of Interest Public space. Administration services as inspiration for art works (e. Educational programs) Interdisciplinary collaboration. The concept of a built environment. The separation of art works and cultural programming for administrative purposes. The connection between art world ‘institutions’ and the city of Vancouver: How democratic is public art in Vancouver? Are public art administrative duties political? The purpose of this interview is to explore some of the ideas surrounding public art ND new genre public art with someone who has an administrative role. . From someone who has an Important role orchestrating many interactions of those Involved In the negotiations, design and Installation of public art In this city Is there anything you would like to say about the interdisciplinary and collaborative nature of public art in Vancouver? Public art has many ways in which it is both interdisciplinary and collaborative: artists’ collaborations, artists on design teams or artists working with communities. It’s always a negotiation of various parties with technical and local expertise.
Artists re challenged to Identify potential, maintain a villous, be creative and resourceful and be able to communicate to multiple parties. Artists have to consider their own skills in relation to how public and collaborative they can be. We need opportunities suited to many different kinds of artists. 2. After speaking to you before and hearing that a significant portion of the funding allocated to public art works is designated for maintenance I researched Merle Alderman Ukulele’s work, which she describes as Maintenance Art, as well as other cultural theories surrounding the conservation of contemporary public art.
While useless expresses her freedom of declaring her various labors as artistic services, established art institutions question the “social, political, and aesthetic factors that influence the conservation of public art”. (Phillips, 3). I think some of these ideas have particular relevance to your profession because they simultaneously examine the preservation of actual art-objects, participation. I believe that art-related administrative duties can be a creative and cultural endeavor all their own. Is this statement similar to your experience?
What is t like to work for the sake of public art in Vancouver? Do you/would you ever consider yourself as an artist? I don’t consider myself an artist, rather more like a curator in terms of identifying and selecting opportunities to pursue, communicating potential to artists, encouraging interest and promoting and rationalizing artists’ work. Putting together a good selection panel can be an art – with appropriate local representation, knowledge of the site, and art expertise and able to have a productive conversation.
Ideally there can also be some fun ways to engage with the public about artworks. The Park piece, a mobile artwork on Ontario, is an interesting case in public engagement that needs activities to keep the public aware and engaged. 3. To qualify for certain kinds of funding, public art projects in Vancouver must be part of the built environment – Have you ever been part of projects that push this perimeter? What about temporary built environments – do you think this is an area that could potentially lead to new forms of public art in Vancouver?
We have had projects that involved performance and media-based projects (on the Granville/Robinson screens ND other sites) and a number of temporary projects such as Sign for the City. It remains a small proportion of the work we support because our funds come primarily from the city capital budget. We have a vision for temporary built forms and are interested in activating particular key sites such as 800 Robinson block and Hastings Park, but so far we don’t have large budgets to bring to this. Temporary projects are still subject to all the requirements for engineering, public safety, etc. So the investment of time and money is still substantial. That said, an initiative such as the Fourth Plinths in London can be a ally exciting one. Or being able to support local initiatives brought forward by artists, galleries, etc. May offer exciting temporary projects. 4. The combination of aesthetic relations and public art programs and have inspired several community-based creative projects in Vancouver, such as educational workshops, the opportunity for public collaboration, and arranging for other events, contests, publications, residencies, public conversations, etc…
Are there any other specific projects that you would like to mention? Do you think there is a benefit from hose kinds of community-outreach cultural services? We have funded several projects in the DATES, including Intersection in 2008 and Bright Light in 2010. Both projects involved a consortium of art and local groups who produced temporary projects. Education and public engagement are important outreach activities, both in involving the public in creative activity and in educating about public art generally.
Certainly there is a movement towards local engagement at this point. The conference last fall at ACE was part of that. Publications and interactive/online tours, etc. Also have lots of potential 5. The 2008 City of Vancouver Policy Report for Culture defines access pertaining to lands in areas offering the public a free and unobstructed experience of the work, with preference given to areas providing the greatest opportunities for the public to experience and interaction.
Indoor areas are usually unsuitable, but in the event an indoor site is approved, the art work must offer the public a free and uninhibited experience during normal business hours. ” (News, 9) Coming from a position in which you rely on concrete perimeters of physical logistics what do you think of Merle Alderman Ukulele’s idea that “a space becomes truly public when a sense of public ownership is felt by many individuals who come there and sense that, this place is for me; it is mine. ” (Useless, 13). ? There are always a number of factors that make a place an active public space.
Artwork is part of that mix. It may identify a place, it may create opportunities for engagement, temporarily or in the longer term. Artwork helps to identify and make public places unique. They are not all large gathering places. I think of the Monument for East Vancouver, PL or the Vancouver Convention Centre with its many artworks are places people identify through the artwork. . In one of the interviews featured in the book “Dialogues in Public Art”, contemporary artist Mel Chin refers to the “psychological threat” (Chin, 386) that public art has accumulated.
Last time we met you also mentioned that, “art is an easy target”. What factors do you think contribute to people getting engaged (critically or otherwise) with public art in their communities? Given the opportunity, most people get engaged in the idea of public art for their cities and neighborhoods. During public consultations, we try to glean ideas for sites and what people think is important. In specific instances, members of the public are asked to help define the parameters for potential artwork.
Some projects offer opportunities to get more directly involved through stories and imagery. Others involve people in participatory performances ala Suzanne Lacy. The more people are aware that something is coming to their local area, whether they are directly involved or not, the more accommodating they seem to be. When an artwork appears with no forewarning, people often react. Sometimes this is a lot of work to defend the artwork, and sometimes it creates a good discussion and even mom fun – for instance the person who tweets as the main street poodle.