Published: Sep 16, 2008 01:30 PM
Modified: Sep 16, 2008 01:30 PM
A tile mural depicting a colorful tree enlivened by birds and other small creatures welcomes visitors to the main gathering space in the Southern Human Services Center on Homestead Road in Chapel Hill. The mural, the work of Efland artist Sarah Craige, is one of several public art installations added to enhance the environment in county buildings.
Soon visitors to the Central Orange Senior Center will enjoy the color and texture of the work of Carrboro artist Peg Gignoux in the center's new space in Hillsborough. Gignoux's textile artwork will be installed at the center by early December.
These are both examples of public art incorporated into existing buildings. In each case the artwork has been specifically created for the site in which it is to be installed. And in both cases, the public art process is a joint effort between the staff of the facility and the Orange County Arts Commission.
The people who work in the place know the space and how they'd like it enhanced. Arts Commission volunteers bring experience in implementing public art efforts. They also serve as liaison between the county commissioners and the projects.
The staff of a county facility, often in collaboration with their clients, identifies where or how they would like artwork to enhance their space.
A committee comprised of facility staff and their clients and Arts Commission volunteers oversees the process of establishing physical specifications and administrative parameters for the proposed project, including budget and timeline, which result in a detailed prospectus for artists to submit entries.
In recent projects, entries were limited to artists from North Carolina, with Orange County artists particularly encouraged to apply.
The selection process is multi-tiered. In the first step the committee reviews the resumes and work samples all of the entrants and selects finalists to be interviewed. In individual interviews the selected candidates present their proposed site-specific artwork.
Their presentations are supported by sketches or models that are made available to the public for display and comment. This public input is incorporated into the committee's final selection process. The committee's final selection is presented to the Board of County Commissioners for their approval.
This public art process has worked its magic once more. A sculpture by Wayne Trapp of Vilas will be installed in the outdoor courtyard of the Seymour Center on Homestead Road this month and dedicated on Oct. 27 at 3 p.m.
Trapp, a nationally renowned artist, has created a work that is Zen in tone and impressive in scale, which enhances not only the Seymour Center but the surrounding visual environment as well.
Public Art 360, a regional symposium on current and future trends in public art was held in Chapel Hill in April of this year. Community planners and municipal officials described the challenges and benefits of Percent for Art programs, which are increasingly being adopted in communities across the country.
Chapel Hill has adopted a Percent for Art ordinance that stipulates that one percent of all capital expenditures is dedicated for implementation of public art projects.
Art becomes an integral part of the evolving, growing community.
The growth of the public art movement has led to the emergence of a classification of professional artists who specialize in creating and implementing art for public spaces.
These artists create site-specific works, often of a large and complex scale. Their work may interact with architecture and/or environmental or landscape design.
Their works may be permanent or time-limited installations, but their tasks typically involve overseeing all levels of project and budget management.
Becoming a professional public artist requires an inclination and skill set that is distinct from that of the artist whose work may displayed in public spaces, but is not created with that specific intention.
In this vein, existing artworks by local artists have been purchased by the Orange County Arts Commission and are displayed in various county-owned buildings throughout Orange County.
The Orange County Arts Commission has also collaborated with the Chapel Hill Public Arts Commission on two public art projects funded by both the Town of Chapel Hill and Orange County. These projects are the Homestead Aquatics Center and Southern Community Park.
Public art projects are increasingly evident in the shared spaces of Orange County. Perhaps in the near future a countywide Percent for Art program will be realized as the aesthetic, social, and environmental benefits of public art become part of the planning for the growth and health of our county community.
Alice Levinson is chair of the Orange County Arts Commission.