2018 PAN Year in Review Trends and Themes: Participatory and Performative

Annually, the Public Art Network (PAN) Year in Review recognizes outstanding public art projects that represent the most compelling work for the year from across the country and beyond. The projects are selected and presented by a jury of three p九龙高手水心论坛精选 who represent different aspects of the public art field, including artists, administrators, and other public art allies. New this year, the PAN Advisory Council curated the selected 49 selected projects for 2018 under five unique themes to broaden the exposure of the selected works on ARTSblog and social media, and to provide context to the works through national trends and themes that are impacting the field today.

Participatory and Performative

Over the past decade, performative and participatory public artworks have gained in popularity with commissioning agencies and the communities they serve. Typically, public art is seen as a long-term, integrated, stationary, visual arts-based artwork. Performative and participatory projects allow for a new type of public art that that include multiple sensory experiences and a different way of engaging community where a whole community may be considered an artist. Performative and participatory public art projects create music, encourage touch, and utilize participation to be fully realized as a completed art piece.

Of the 2018 selected PAN Year in Review projects, 15 uniquely expanded the definitions of artist, medium, and material. These performative and participatory projects are redefining both the commissioning process and what is expected of a finalized public artwork. The below projects vary from engagement for cultural planning projects to poetry to musical responses to site and more. The variety of public artworks expand the definition of the type of projects being commissioned and push the proverbial envelope in ways community can engage in the implementation of public art.

Ascent by Kevin Padworski, commissioned by Denver Arts & Venues – Public Art Program

The Denver Arts & Venues Public Art Program commissioned an original musical composition from Denver composer Kevin T. Padworski. The composition is played on the Denver City and County Building 10-bell chime, with the corresponding notes of: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, B flat, C, and D. The composition, titled Ascent, acts as a signature piece for Denver—something that identifies Denver to residents and visitors. The composition is celebratory in nature and evokes the booming, elevated spirit of Denver. The composition announces important events that take place in the City and County Building and adjacent Civic Center Park. Ascent can also be activated by a smartphone app, from anywhere in the world.

Photo credit: Student from Society of Lightcatchers

Eastpoint Public Art Residency by Mary Cantu, commissioned by Public Art San Antonio, City of San Antonio Department of Arts and Culture

Eastside Public Art Residencies is a multiyear program supporting artists in creating community-driven artworks in the Eastside Promise Zone, prompting dialogue and creative thinking. Cantu created a program that invited teaching artists into three San Antonio Independent School District campuses that had suffered cuts to arts education programs. The diverse group of artists and educators developed projects that engaged elementary, middle, and high school students in multidisciplinary creative initiatives. Through architecture, modern dance, painting, photography, and multimedia arts, artists and educators led students in the creation of art and discussions of the history, culture, and future visions for their neighborhood. From restoring murals, creating installations that interpret local history, and performance pieces to repurposing a shipping container into ART//CRAFT, a mobile cultural space to be used by eastside artists and organizations, students worked alongside artists at Washington Elementary, Wheatley Middle School, and Sam Houston High School to create public artworks for their campus and community.

Photo credit: Meredith James

Far from this setting in which I now find myself by Meredith James, commissioned by The Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy

Meredith James’ sculpture is an optical illusion called an Ames room—a three-walled trapezoidal room built with a false perspective. What seems a believable space becomes implausible when a person walking from one side of the room to the other appears to grow or shrink. James’ sculptures and installations depend on the viewer’s interaction; it is only through an active process of looking—through a peephole—that a piece becomes complete. In this artwork, both viewer and participant become part of the installation and the sculpture itself becomes a stage for their actions. To the naked eye, the sculpture looks like an off-kilter garden; but when viewed through the viewfinder, the perfectly symmetrical garden frames the radically disproportional people within. Between walking around in the room and taking photographs through the peephole, visitors can experience a gap between what they perceive and what another sees. James has created a park within a park, placing her sculpture so that the Boston sky completes the illusion, merging sculpture with reality.

Photo credit: Scott Knight

Harbor Light Mural by Erin Sayer & Bianca Janine Pettis, commissioned by Hennepin Theatre Trust

Light is one of the largest homeless outreach facilities in Minnesota, providing food, shelter, clothing, medical assistance, and other critical services to hundreds of people every day. Located in a nearly century-old warehouse building in the densest area of shelter beds in the region, the facility provides overnight stays, transitional housing, and veterans support housing, along with clinical services and free meals on weekend evenings. The Salvation Army runs the non-profit shelter, the state’s largest. The Harbor Light Mural brings visibility to this community not only as a valued part of the neighborhood, but one that is entitled to belong.

Learning Lab Community Artist Training Program by Courtney Adair Johnson, Julia Whitney Brown, Elizabeth Williams, Xavier Payne, LeXander Bryant, Robbie Lynn Husinger, commissioned by Metro Arts – Nashville Office of Arts + Culture

In 2016, Metro Arts launched an artist development program called Learning Lab. This program helped artists deepen their knowledge around equitable, community-based work and created capacity for neighborhood transformation through the arts. In addition to the training component of the program, Learning Lab served as a public art and creative placemaking incubator that resulted in dozens of artist-led community events, residencies, and the creation of temporary public art projects. The artist projects covered a wide range of community concerns such as affordable housing and displacement, the preservation of cultural traditions within immigrant communities, and projects that promoted black excellence past and present.

Photo credit: Audrey Chan

Martin Luther King, Jr. Recuperative Care Project by Sandy Rodriguez, commissioned by Los Angeles County Arts Commission

Through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission Civic Art Program, artist Sandy Rodriguez loaned 26 artworks for display in the Recuperative Care Center (RCC) at the Martin Luther King Medical Campus in Willowbrook. The paintings, a series of expressive watercolor and oil landscapes, were created with foster youth at community art space Art + Practice in Leimert Park, and with residents in the View Park/Windsor Hills neighborhood through a civic art project called Some Place Chronicles. In a second phase of this project, Rodriguez was placed as an artist in residence at the facility, working with the Department of Health Services to develop and implement an art program that helped support patient transition into housing. During the residency, Rodriguez developed a meaningful and sustainable program for clients who created artworks to replace those currently on loan from the artist.

Poetry on Buses: Your Body of Water by Jourdan Imani Keith (Poet Planner), commissioned by 4Culture, Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, King County Metro Transit, King County Department of Natural Resources & Parks: Water and Land Resources and Wastewater Treatment Divisions, Seattle Department of Transportation and Seattle Streetcar, Seattle Public Utilities, Sound Transit

Poetry on Buses invites King County residents to create, share, and experience poetry on public transit, online, and in community. The 2016-18 program is first of its kind: multi-modal and featuring poetry in nine languages. Six Community Liaisons were hired to develop customized outreach strategies and co-develop 11 poetry workshops among African American, Chinese, Ethiopian, Punjabi, Spanish-speaking, and Indigenous communities. Multi-generational and varied in style, these workshops explored poetry and the “Your Body of Water” theme articulated by Jourdan Keith, a poet, water advocate, and our Poet Planner. A celebration at the historic Moore Theatre launched the “Your Body of Water” collection: 100+ poems on buses, light rail, and streetcars—thanks to new fiscal and programmatic partnerships with six transit and water stewardship agencies—and all 365 poems on poetryonbuses.org, debuting one every day for a year.

Photo credit: Jim Colton

Safe & Sound by Tomo Saito, commissioned by City of Palo Alto, CA and Art Works – National Endowment for the Arts

Safe & Sound by Tomo Saito is a dynamic participatory-based music installation that animated King Plaza in downtown Palo Alto during a three-day new media public art festival called Code:ART. The installation engaged the public in the creation of community generated music and provided spontaneous and fun interactions among strangers. Safe & Sound invited passersby to sit down on one of eight chairs, each of which was connected to a track of music, which was triggered when someone sat in the chair. With all eight chairs filled, the full musical composition could be heard. The artwork instantly became a natural gathering place and drew over ten thousand people over the course of Code:ART to enjoy the music. Each day the installation featured a new musical track, allowing the public to experience the project in a new way. The temporary project included two daily choreographed performances with volunteers from the public, led by the artist, composing music in public plaza.

Sky Song by Nick Geurts, Ryan Elmendorf, commissioned by Denver Arts & Venues – Public Art Program

Sky Song is an interactive art installation designed and fabricated by Denver-based artists Nick Geurts and Ryan Elmendorf. Situated at the Levitt Pavilion (a music/concert venue), the artwork enhances the visitor experience by allowing them to create their own sound and light performance. Conceptually and formally, the work connects the earth to the sky. The mirror-polished stainless steel 8-foot sculpture invites passersby to press any combination of its 33 buttons which activate lights and sound on the secondary stainless steel sculpture on the facade of the Levitt Pavilion amphitheater. The mirror-polished stainless steel adds to the blurring of earth and sky and, viewed at the right angle, the two components seem to form one element. The musical tones allow visitors to play songs or create their own musical melodies.

Photo credit: kma

Social Seed by Gurpreet Sehra, commissioned by Winnipeg Arts Council

Western Canada’s first community food center opened in Winnipeg’s Inkster neighborhood in March 2015. The center is a project of NorWest Co-op Community Health, who chose to partner with artist Gurpreet Sehra to create a community public art project. Throughout 2015, Sehra facilitated free art classes in the new food center. Once a concept was devised, community members met weekly to paint in the NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre, often surrounded by cooking classes, Zumba, and community lunches. Together they painted 119 textile-covered ceramic tiles to create a 7’ x 17’ mural now permanently installed inside the center. The imagery is based on a map of the neighborhood from the early 1970s when the NorWest Co-op was formed, and centers on the newly opened community food center, with bold colors representing current demographics. It speaks to the Co-op’s enduring presence in this evolving community.

Photo credit: Erik Adigard

StreeTALK by Erik Adigard, commissioned by City of Palo Alto, CA and Art Works – National Endowment for the Arts

StreeTALK: What is your dream city? is a community co-creation, a participatory installation of passerby commentaries and drawings on the future of the city. A street corner is restaged as a space of convergence for Palo Alto citizens, workers, and visitors. StreeTALK’s key concerns were introduced in a panel organized by the Institute for the Future. In part inspired by the research-oriented philosophy of IFTF, StreeTALK is also a design experiment in which we are exploring the dynamics of creative control. In both city planning and individual creations, we enter into a set of relationships where the contextual demands are often too great to allow the free flow of solutions. Cities can be as inherently dysfunctional as they appear extraordinary. Framed by a basic set of rules, passersby are invited to address a simple prompt. The ensuing responses become a conversation rooted in the intersection of thoughts, ideas, concerns, and suggestions. This Palo Alto street corner turns into a lively universal agora. The final piece will stand as an information tree and, surely, an unpredictable collective artwork in its own right.

Photo credit: City of Phoenix Office of Arts + Culture

Story Days by Alberto Rios, commissioned by the City of Phoenix Office of Arts + Culture

The Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture partnered with Arizona State University Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and five key arts and community groups to produce Story Days, a two-year series of story-based performance and poetry events that explored how we identify with our neighborhoods and surroundings. The project commissioned writers, performers, and other artists to work with schools and community organizations serving young and old to create temporary and permanent works highlighting the factors and forces that shape the meaning and identity of place in our lives. The works ranged from dance, theater, music, and poetry performances to workshops featuring perfume made from neighborhood plants and aromas.

Photo credit: Jodi Miller

T.I.M.E (Temporary Installation Made for the Environment) by Joanna Keane Lopez, commissioned by New Mexico Arts

Each year, New Mexico Arts partners with a local community to commission up to ten temporary, visually engaging, and conceptually rich environmental artworks to be displayed for a short term exhibition in that community. The opening of the exhibit is often tied to another important community event. The artworks relate to a designated theme, and New Mexico Arts challenges artists to create environmental pieces that inspire, question, engage, and otherwise influence the citizens of and visitors to the host community. New Mexico Arts is interested in interactive art that encourages an audience response and transforms participants into active contributors to the creative process. The artworks are displayed for the length of the exhibit, and at the end of the exhibition they are disassembled and removed, leaving no trace of ever having existed. T.I.M.E. was inspired by the emerging public art trend to engage artists interested in creating more spontaneous and immediate artworks with short lifespans. New Mexico Arts hopes that this kind of project will engage both communities and artists in the public art process.

Photo credit: Richard Deutsch

Triumph by Richard Deutsch, commissioned by the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA Palo Alto Health Care Sys)

Triumph is a symbolic multi-component art-environment project designed to be an active part of the VA’s comprehensive holistic rehabilitation program. Triumph is experiential for both blind and severely injured veterans, their families, and visitors to the healthcare campus. Triumph started with writing workshops staged for the Polytrauma patients to understand further their thoughts, psychology, and needs. Identity, loyalty, sacrifice, unity, challenge, strength, overcoming adversity, and renewal were the sentiments given by the Polytrauma and Blindness patients as the bases for the art concept. The art components, visible from all locations of the campus, include a symbolic, central 40-foot-tall landmark sculpture that punctuates the site while celebrating the seven active-duty federal uniformed military services: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps. Triumph was created to uplift the VA patients emotionally and inspire their spirit of renewal.

WeHo Arts: The Plan — Data Visualization Projects by Maria del Carmen LaMadrid Zamora & Sean Noyce, commissioned by City of West Hollywood

The City of West Hollywood commissioned three artist/team(s) to create artworks to illustrate data collected during the WeHo Arts: The Plan cultural planning process. Each project was presented on the City’s various multimedia platforms—social media, electronic billboards on the Sunset Strip, and/or the city website and/or installed as a temporary public artwork. Artist Maria del Carmen LaMadrid Zamora explores an expanded definition of data visualization by utilizing a performative object, a 5.5-foot red weather balloon. Dream Cloud, by artist Sean Noyce, is a series of graphic artworks composed of word clouds that are scaled proportionally to the number of times a particular word was mentioned in a community outreach survey. The City of Creative Delights is a series of gifs, animated by artist team YoMeryl, that convey the principles of The Plan—Space, Engagement, Support, Visibility, and Experimentation.