Gallery Night – Friday, July 3

Find the roundup for this Friday’s gallery night offerings here.

I think you need to be within a certain downtown area and be in an included art space to be considered officially part of “Gallery Night” as run by the Downtown Ithaca Alliance.  Many other art events/openings are scheduled on Gallery Night to take advantage of the crowds, but are not included in listings because of location or venue.  There are three such public art events/installations opening or being inaugurated this Friday:

Art in the Heart of the City, the outdoor public art collection, sponsored by Ithaca’s Public Art Commission and The Downtown Ithaca Alliance.  Opening reception is  from 5-8 pm at The Commons Amphitheatre. Four participating artists will be present.  At 6:30 local artist Rob Licht will offer a tour of the 2009 works, located all over downtown, from DeWitt Park to the Creek Walk and in-between.

Public Art Commission’s Green St. Windows installation by Brody Burroughs.  Not sure if there is an official opening or if the work is just being inaugurated.  Anyone have details?

to Let Art Program, curated by The Working Relationship and co-sponsored by The Downtown Ithaca Alliance and local landlords, installs mainly site-specific art works in vacant storefronts downtown.  Opening reception is 4-6pm at the Bernie Milton Pavilion on The Commons.  Walking tours of participating properties depart 4:30pm and 5:30pm. Participating collective, SP Weather Station delivers a talk, “Taxonomy of Taxonomies of Clouds,” in the amphitheater on The Commons at twilight, around 9pm.

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New sculpture at the library

libraryI just noticed these in front of the library.  Anyone know their story?  Are they part of Art in the Heart of the City?

FORUM: Art for Ithaca’s Future

An opportunity to voice your opinion about “new directions for the arts in downtown Ithaca”:

On Saturday, April 25th, the Downtown Ithaca Alliance invites community members of all ages to ART FOR A JUST & SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY, the theme for Art in the Heart of the City 2009 and the DIA’s contribution to Ithaca’s Earth Day ’09 celebration.

The event opens with a 12:00 Noon Parade for the Earth on the Ithaca Commons, followed at 1 pm by a Forum on Exploring Directions for the Arts in Downtown Ithaca in the Tompkins County Library Borg- Warner Room.

Everyone is invited to gather for the Parade at 11:00 a.m. The Parade will start from the Bernie Milton Pavilion at 12:00 noon.

The Exploring Directions Forum continues the exploration of a role for the arts in future downtown development which was launched last fall, as part of the DIA’s 2008 Art in the Heart of the City public art program.

Alastair Noble, internationally-renowned artist and former Cornell faculty member, will open with an overview of how artists working in public spaces are engaging sustainability themes. Kathy Bruce, whose bamboo and morning glory Graces were featured in Art in the Heart of the City 2008, will then draw on her own work to show how one artist might interpret Ithaca’s 2009 theme of Art for a Just & Sustainable Community. The Forum will conclude with an exploration of possibilities for creating a dynamic future for the arts in downtown Ithaca.

Specifically, panelists and participants will be asked to consider three key questions:

1. How should the arts factor into thinking about re-doing the Ithaca Commons?

2. What might ‘iconic art’ for downtown Ithaca look like?

3. How can the Downtown Ithaca Alliance engage local artists and the broader community in making public art a more prominent part of downtown life?

(add your questions here)

Reminder: Public Art calls for submission

I did a larger post about this previously, but this is a reminder.  The deadline for both is Wednesday, April 15th.  There’s still time to submit!

The Downtown Ithaca Alliance‘s 2009 Art in the Heart of the City, previously defined as an outdoor sculpture exhibit, is now a public art exhibit.  While there is a theme, it is loose and meant to be a starting point.  The jury for this show includes: Patricia Phillips, Professor & Chair, Cornell Art Department; Frank Robinson, Director, Johnson Museum of Art; and Sydney Waller, Executive Director, Sculpture Space.  Here are the submission guidelines.

The City of Ithaca’s Public Art Commission is accepting proposals for a site specific artwork exhibition to be installed on the Green Street Parking Garage in Ithaca. Accepted work will be reproduced and sized for the exterior application.  Open to all NYS artists, collaborations welcome. Here are the submission guidelines.

public art: not for the fainthearted

The architect Peter Eisenman, the artist Mark Dion, and the architect/city planner Nicole Blumner have all spoken at Cornell within the past couple of weeks, and I somehow happened to hear them all. Though it wasn’t the primary focus of their talks, all three had strong words to say about public art and its challenges, especially here in the U.S.

On February 17, Eisenman spoke at Sage Chapel about the Holocaust memorial he designed for Berlin. He had initially started working on it with the sculptor Richard Serra, but Serra ended up backing out (Eisenman recounted this in a rather humorous way…) because the large and intimidating Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who was *extremely* involved in the project, wanted to make changes to their concept. Eisenman is used to working with clients practically as collaborators, so Kohl’s input wasn’t too big an issue for him. And a Holocaust memorial is always a high profile proposition, especially in Germany. Nevertheless, Eisenman marveled that the chancellor of Germany himself and so many other people in the country’s government make public art and memorials such a priority in general. He recalled being greeted on the street by various ministers, and said that would never happen to him in Washington. When Eisenman showed pictures of the completed project, which I found stunning (and even more interesting after hearing him describe his intentions, actually), I swear the first thing I thought was: “Holy crap, somebody could get really hurt on that.”

How very American of me. I doubt that this beautiful array of stone blocks, which, as Eisenman intends, can be a site for immediate human experiences and interactions of many sorts, would ever make it off the drawing board over here. Public officials would be too afraid of the inevitable cascade of lawsuits as various sort of behaviors, fun and otherwise, went down amid these stark, angular, hard, and probably slippery-when-wet forms. Eisenman didn’t address this issues of litigation and liability in his talk. I wanted to ask but didn’t get a chance, and was surprised no one else did.

My growing suspicions about the slow-to-sue Germans were goosed by Nicole Blumner’s talk, on Feb. 27, which was a comparison of German and U.S. interim land use. She defined interim uses as legal (i.e., squatting wouldn’t count), intended as temporary, and ones that “activate” a site–so, not a parking lot or a storage area. In Germany such uses have included an indoor skateboarding area, artist studios, art and performance spaces, community gardens, nightclubs, and festival grounds. The issue of liability came up right away during the q&a, and Blumner admitted that the litigiousness of U.S. society is one, but by no means the only obstacle in developing interim uses for vacant land and buildings here. But to give an example of how devil-may-care the German citizenry is, she described in some detail a horrifyingly dangerous playground she went to with her child while she was over there. It sounded fantastic to me.

Mark Dion raised the issue of public art unprovoked at a talk after his funny and visually entrancing (for all you collectors, hoarders, birders, general nature nerds, categorizers, and filers out there) slide lecture at the Johnson Museum on the 26th. He basically said he hates doing public art projects, and for reasons that sounded reasonable to me: there’s no funding and because public art in this country is almost always decided upon by members of community boards and city councils and attendees to their meetings rather than by special art commissions of art professionals or artists, you can’t do anything interesting, because anything interesting will always be seen by someone as offensive or dangerous (I paraphrase). Michael Kammen, author of the new book Visual Shock and a Cornell American cultural history professor, was also at the talk, and he told the story of the infamous Robert Motherwell mural at the JFK Federal Building in Boston, which was protested for about a year because one of the papers leaked the untruth that it was meant to represent the president’s head on impact of his assassin(s) bullet(s). But the project was completed and eventually most people decided they really liked it, especially since it really wasn’t a depiction of anything, being abstract. Other anecdotes followed about museums resorting to draping sheath over sculptural nudes and other measures taken to protect the delicate American psyche.

Anyway, all this got me thinking even more about public art possibilities in Ithaca. I would love to hear if anyone has any thoughts, including practical procedural ideas, for how to clear the path for exciting new uses of available spaces in Ithaca, especially the vacant indoor spaces downtown. How can we get everyone involved without ending up with art that’s too safe, in every sense of the word, or (much worse!) with no new public art at all?

Ithaca Public Art: Calls for Submissions

There’s a lot of potential in Ithaca for exciting public art.  We have the artists, we have the space, we have the organizations/commissions/City support.  There’s even a bit of money in it.  What we need is for more artists to respond to these calls with thoughtful, engaging proposals that address the sites where they’ll be installed and really start a dialog both with the Ithaca community and the greater art world about art and about the current issues we face as a community.

There are artists who are currently engaged in the local Ithaca art community and shape what it is.  Yay, active artists!  I’m not talking to you for the moment.  I want to address the artists out there who live in Ithaca, but  don’t see Ithaca as being a place for their art because the work they do is not, for the most part, currently represented in our galleries, public art, art reviews, etc.  For the arts in Ithaca to move forward, to fully reflect all that we have to offer as an arts town, and for us to grow as an artistic community, we need you and your work represented.  I encourage all of you, but especially you artists working away in Ithaca, but envisioning your art careers outside your home town, to submit proposals to these calls!  If Ithaca isn’t the kind of arts town you want, stop complaining and change it by getting your work out there.  It seems that the institutions are open to change.

The Downtown Ithaca Alliance and the City of Ithaca Public Art Commission both have calls out right now for public art.

The Downtown Ithaca Alliance‘s 2009 Art in the Heart of the City, previously defined as an outdoor sculpture exhibit, is now a public art exhibit.  While there is a theme, it is loose and meant to be a starting point.  The jury for this show includes: Patricia Phillips, Professor & Chair, Cornell Art Department; Frank Robinson, Director, Johnson Museum of Art; and Sydney Waller, Executive Director, Sculpture Space.  Here are the submission guidelines.

The City of Ithaca’s Public Art Commission is accepting proposals for a site specific artwork exhibition to be installed on the Green Street Parking Garage in Ithaca. Accepted work will be reproduced and sized for the exterior application.  Open to all NYS artists, collaborations welcome. Here are the submission guidelines.

Ithaca’s Public Art Commission

Did you know the City of Ithaca has a Public Art Commission?  Well, I just found out that it does.

The PAC is an advisory committee to the City of Ithaca on decisions about and implementation of public art.  PAC receives and reviews proposals for public art projects as well as donations of public sculptures, etc. to the City of Ithaca.  Anyone who has a concrete idea (and funding) for a public art project can and should present their proposal to PAC.  I’m assuming it would be a good idea to get on their agenda…

Clearly not many artists know they can present their proposals for recommendation and approval, so do tell them.  PAC doesn’t seem to have a yearly budget, and unlike some exemplary government public art programs around the country (of course, in bigger cities like Philadelphia, San Francisco, Chapel Hill, NYC, among others)  the City of Ithaca doesn’t currently employ the “percent for art” funding program.  (That explains a lot.)  Currently most of the public art we encounter in the city has either been donated, privately commissioned, part of the grant-funded Art in the Heart of the Downtown Alliance, or otherwise grant-funded.

The good news is PAC has recently received some funding to support their first open call for proposals for (the first, I think) public art project funded by the City, which should be coming out soon, so look out for it.  In the meantime, we really need to do something to get that Percent For Art funding mechanism in place here.

On the City of Ithaca website, under Boards and Committees, you will find information about PAC.  You’ll find the full Public Art Plan PDF here.