Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Role of the Public Artist

You are lucky to be a student enrolled in the unique Visual and Public Arts Program of Cal State Monterey Bay. So, what exactly does that mean? Who is the public artist? What is their role in this society? In what ways is the public artist's role essential in a democracy?

These are the questions I asked myself when thinking about why I'm studying here. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to interview one of the creators of this public piece, artist David Avalos. The following comments come from this interview in response to general questions about the role of the artist.

On making space:

"What we meant by creating space was based on our understanding that 'public art space' is not some predetermined quantity that can be either occupied or unoccupied. That space comes into existence simultaneously with the successful presentation and public reception of the art work. In other words, the successful production of the public art work results in a space that did not previously exist for art. For example, graffiti art transforms a space that is intended simply as a wall into an art space. The space is not created for the public alone bur to the artist(s) and the public."

On "other roles" of the public artist:

Although Avalos states that he is not in a "position to decree what role a public artist 'must play'", he does offer some other roles that the artist takes on in the creation of public art. Avalos writes, "Other roles played: decorator, illustrator, designer, provocateur, propagandist, art maker, image-maker, conceptual artist."

In an interview that appeared in The Neighborhood Reporter, in February 1988, Louis Hock and Elizabeth Sisco offer important ideas about the different ways the public artist has an influence on public discourse.

On selecting the topic of the art work, Hock explains:

"We wanted to deal with a topic that's indigenous to our area. We wanted to make a statement that would relate to people taking the bus. We didn't want to make art for Hallmark cards. Art is not meant to be a cheerleaders. It is the responsibility of the artists who receive public funds to show things the way they see them."

On involving the audience with public art, Sisco emphasizes:

"We're bombarded with images, so we wanted to do something that actively involves the viewer: puts art into the landscape...None of us wanted it to be a blatant statement, a slap in the face like the 'listen to our radio station' message of most advertisements. We wanted it to be something that you'd have to look at and draw your own conclusions."

Here are some questions I would like to pose in hopes that you will come back to this blog and contribute your ideas, opinions and worldviews after our presentation.
How do you see your role as a public artist? What, if any, is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY?

1 comment:

greg said...

Just recently, I have been tackling this question. For me, it has been creating an interaction with the audience that elicits a response. "well, all art has this role," true, but the art that is intended to be viewed in the gallery context is not challenged the same way. Gallery art is provided to those who want it, while public art is an opportunity to give an experience without the consent of the viewer. what experience that is, is dependent on the intentions of the artist. As we know, the intentions and actual reactions usually never matched up unless it is an illustration.