Making Public Art Public

Public art has long been endemic to most major cities. In New York it is an essential cultural component. From July 11 to August 19 the School of Visual Arts is offering “Reconfiguring Site: New Approaches to Public Art and Architecture,” in which participants engage the streetscape to produce active and interactive experiences.

I asked Anita Glesta, the program coordinator, about her goals and expectations for this ongoing event:

For the past few years the SVA public art program offered the opportunity for the participants to do temporary works on 23rd street. These works were often performative and were always very interactive, appropriate to a very pedestrian trafficked street.

Last year some of our Residency participants chose to do site responsive  (and hypothetical) works for the High Line since the High Line Curator (Lauren Ross) was a visiting lecturer in our program.

This summer we will ask the participants to once again engage with possible sites in NYC and will offer them a list of suggested sites. We may also be working on some public art projects for the city of Krakow simultaneously. I have been invited in June to curate and lecture for this city as they launch their first temporary art in the public in this old and historic city. It would be interesting to have the participants do work for this site and I will be able to facilitate this with some live video streaming. The city of Krakow is excited to work with us on this project.

Reconfiguring Site always “uses” NYC as its “core”. One of our visiting speakers this summer is the landscape architect who has done the master plan for Governors Island. He will be speaking about this and also has agreed to come with us on our opening day picnic there to talk with us as we explore the island.  We will also be visiting the studio the artist Tom Otterness, in Brooklyn.  He is the well  known artist who does many of the lillyputian bronze figurative sculptures in the subways and the parks of NYC. Eiko and Koma, the performance artists, will be doing a public performance work this summer at Lincoln Center. Our Residency participants will attend this event and Eiko and Koma will later visit the program and give a workshop on the body in public space for us. The artist Mierle Ukeles Laderman, who for decades has worked with the NYC Department of Sanitation creating artworks that investigate and explore waste, will be another visiting artist. She has also been working on a huge project for the Fresh Kills “Dump”  in Staten Island. I am hoping that she will illuminate us about how she incorporates issues of waste and sustainability as an artist in her practice.

Needless to say, New York is a constant resource that is always energy giving as well as receptive.

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