We are very interested in projects that promote positive social change and experiences while preserving artistic integrity. It is the job and vision of artists and curators to bring issues, perspectives, and conversations out into the world, and to us it's incredibly important not to dumb down or desaturate art work in a community or public space, since doing so is what can give "community art" a bad rep. Below are four examples of organizations and projects that do good, inspire, and preserve the power of artists in our world.
The organization Creative Time is very important to us. Over the past four decades, they have dedicated their projects to expressing artists' intentions in public space. Back in 2008, Andrea volunteered at the exhibition, Democracy in America, at the Park Avenue Armory. The 2008 election was of enormous importance in our minds, and not only was there a huge exhibition dedicated to the perspectives of that time in our history, but Creative Time also brought artists to the DNC and RNC, and set up mobile projects that explored what democracy means in America. Just exploring their entire archive is inspiring, and we are especially excited for the Kara Walker exhibition at the Domino Sugar Factory opening May 10th.
As members of the steering committee for our local nonprofit community organization, Arts Gowanus, we are hyper-aware of artists' (our) roles in the community, which are particularly important when we have studios in gentrifying neighborhoods. We loved this recap of The Studio In Crisis meeting by William Powhida from April 4th because of the call to action at the end for all artists to be part of the larger community conversation. Artists working in affordable studios do not have to have a passive experience in the community, but should have an engaged, productive one!
This article in the World Economic Forum asks if art could change the world. It provides a great example of the Canadian Brandaid project, which connects artisans in developing countries with brands, and therefore new customers, to make their beautiful craft work. It is more commercial in nature than other examples we are citing, but incredibly relevant since educated consumers can bring about change in an important way.
The Percent for Art Program has existed for thirty years, and runs on a New York City law that requires that one percent of the budget for eligible New York City-funded construction projects be spent on public artwork. Their Tumblr is an amazing resource of artwork existing in public space, some posts with commentary from the artists. We love this commission below by Natasha Johns-Messenger whose piece, Alterview, "frames the East River view for students and staff at the Hunter's Point Campus in Queens, capturing scenes of the ever-changing cityscape through the orange glass panel and its lens-like cutout." You can read more about the new facility – which houses three public schools serving over 1,000 students–in Architectural Record.
In this thought-provoking article from last year, Sara Reisman, the head curator from Percent for Art, examines art's social function through examples of her program and beyond. Her final sentiment is one that we want to share with you:
"...There have been significant institutional shifts in the visual arts community, where there are a number of new social practice MFA programs (Portland State University, California College of the Arts and Queens College, which recently established a social practice program in collaboration with the Queens Museum of Art). A Blade of Grass Foundation was established two years ago to support 'artists who demonstrate artistic excellence and serve as innovative conduits for social change.' And Creative Time continues to program its annual summit, which convenes an international roster of artists and cultural producers whose work exemplifies public practice that enacts social change. All of these shifts in institutional thinking point to an increased value placed on artists and others working in the arts as facilitators of social and political change. I question who is leading this move, artists or institutions, and is it a function of functional art being more fundable? Either way, I am a believer, even if conflicted. I believe in this seemingly imaginary space of art where political and social concerns can be addressed without censorship, and I am hopeful that social practice will seep further into other fields and discourses — in other words, the real world — so that free expression can be upheld beyond the space of art."