Public Art Review issue 59 - 2020

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Public Art Review

Public Art Review Issue 59 • 2020 •

Issue 59 • How We Live Together • International Award 2019 • Puerto Rico • Water Justice • Pre-Enactment Theater

Redesigning How We Live Together Artists and designers invite us to focus on justice, inclusion, and human dignity

Seesaws Across the U.S.–Mexico Border: A 40-minute-long temporary playground has global impact


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Aurora “Bright Dawn” Seattle, WA 2019 Client: City of Seattle Office of Arts & Culture Prime Team: SDOT


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Metropolitan Faces (2019) Š Alex Katz, NYCT 57th Street Station. Commissioned by Metropolitan Transportation Authority Arts & Design. Photos: Etienne Frossard. Technique: Reverse Painting on glass with fired ceramic colors

Alex Katz in collaboration with

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Public Art Review Issue 59 • 2020 • Volume 31

FEATURES 30 A Battered Island Holds Its Head High Arts in Puerto Rico after the hurricane, and economic and political crises 38 Design for Equity Meet the practitioners bridging good design and social justice


48 Water Justice Minnesota artist-activists address social and cultural inequity 58 All Around the World Winner and nominees of the 2019 International Award for Public Art

ON THE COVER First drawn by Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello in 2009 in response to the 2006 Secure Fence Act, the Teeter-Totter Wall was fabricated by artists in Juárez and used for 40 minutes on July 28, 2019. Learn more on page 10. Photo © Rael San Fratello.




THIS PAGE Hotel Empire: The New York Crossing by Laurent Boijeot and Sebastien Renauld is one of seven projects commended by the 2019 International Award for Public Art. Learn about public art projects around the globe on page 58. Photo by Clément Martin.

El Paseo Sculpture Exhibition Carefully Curated. Artfully Designed. Walk along El Paseo and be inspired by a captivating display of 18 sculptures placed in the median of El Paseo, Palm Desert’s celebrated shopping district. Created by emerging and renowned artists from around the globe, these sculptural works of art will surely intrigue the most discerning eye.








Guided tours are available on select Saturdays, as part of the City’s First Weekend programing. For information contact or 760.837.1664. Sh











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Public Art Review Issue 59 • 2020 • Volume 31


PUBLISHER’S / EDITOR’S NOTE Dignity and Collaboration


10 PROJECTS WE LOVE Select recent works



U.S.–Mexico Border: Teeter-Totter Wall

12 New York, New York: Brick House

13 Chattanooga, Tennessee: City Thread 14 Tautra, Norway, and global installations: Pollution Pods 20

16 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Diligence

TOP: Photo by George Fifield. MIDDLE: Photo by Ryan Stopera. BOTTOM: Photo courtesy Joanna Taft.

17 The Bronx, New York: The Tree Inside Me 18

San Francisco, California: Future IDs at Alcatraz


Cincinnati, Ohio: Ad Pacem

20 Boston, Massachusetts: Hard in the Paint 22 IN THE FIELD News, views, and ideas


22 Artists in the DOT: Residencies in transportation


24 City-Scale Sustainability: Mary Miss and Adrián Cerezo



Owning It: An interview with Victoria Jones of The CLTV


78 ON LOCATION Global reports

78 “Pre-Enacting” the Future in Indianapolis


84 Performing a Post-Prison Economy: Appleton, Minn.


88 BOOKS New publications


96 LAST PAGE Kaleidoscope: 30-foot monarch butterfly




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Public Art Review ISSUE 59 •2020 • VOLUME 31

PUBLISHER. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Theresa Sweetland EDITOR IN CHIEF. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Karen Olson SENIOR EDITOR. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jon Spayde COPY EDITOR. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Loma Huh EDITORIAL ASSISTANT. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jen Dolen DESIGN AND CREATIVE DIRECTION. . . . Outside the Box Designs AD SALES. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Shauna Dee CIRCULATION COORDINATOR. . . . . . . . . Chitra Vairavan

ADVISORS David Allen

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Patricia C. Phillips

Thomas Fisher

Joyce Pomeroy Schwartz

Amelia Foster

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Wang Dawei

Glenn Harper

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Dignity and Collaboration In a divided time, it’s clear we’re better together BY THERESA SWEETLAND AND KAREN OLSON

In the United States, our social divisions and isolationism threaten to tear apart the fabric of democracy. Real and perceived walls divide us—from each other and from other nations. In the midst of these tensions, public artists and architects are responding by bringing to their work a renewed spirit of collaboration, increased attention to visible and invisible borders, and a focus on social justice and human dignity. You can see it in Teeter-Totter Wall on the cover of this magazine. In 2009, architect Ronald Rael and designer Virginia San Fratello considered how building walls between the U.S. and Mexico severs relationships between the two countries—politically, economically, and at the level of human-to-human interaction. That’s when they conceived of the seesaw project at the U.S.– Mexico border, in which very simple steel beams with delightful banana seats could slide through the border wall and allow children to play together. WE’RE REACHING A CRISIS POINT.

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Teeter-Totter Wall was made real in 2019 for 40 minutes. While the installation faced some criticism for making light at the border where children and families had faced horrific experiences in recent years, people around the world—through social media—responded to its humanity, to the way people coming together can bring joy and a sense of possibility. Peter Svarzbein, an El Paso city council member, JewishLatino artist, and El Paso native, rode that seesaw that day and was proudly moved. “For 20 minutes, this wall and all the tension and the misrepresentations and mischaracterizations of our city fell behind and we got back to doing what we do: sharing with each other across this imaginary border,” he says. “Walls don’t define us. It is the way we cross that defines us.” This is just one of myriad examples of how artists and designers are currently working to help us shift toward connection rather than separation. They’re also pursuing an increasingly integrated approach to addressing critical social and environmental concerns by working closely with other professionals. In this issue of Public Art Review you’ll find many stories about how artists and designers are collaborating with practitioners in other fields and with communities to address concerns. Here are just a few examples: Architects across the country are putting their skills to work to address equity issues (p. 38). Artists around the world

Photos by Dan Marshall.



PUBLISHER’S / EDITOR’S NOTE are addressing historical injustice by creating a more just world today (p. 58). And communities are imagining their own futures and then acting them out on stage to try on new perspectives (p. 78 and p. 84). We’re stronger when we’re working together, not when we’re divided. And so it makes sense that in the field of

public art, we’re learning that we’re stronger when we work in partnership with those in other fields. That’s where we’re seeing the most impact. That’s the kind of leadership this country and the world needs to see today. So that’s why, here in Public Art Review and at Forecast (which publishes

Stay Connected Please join us in the conversation online. You’ll find more inspiring content from Public Art Review in the Inspiration section of @forecastpublicart | @publicartreview



the magazine), we’ve also focused on a vision of allyship and alignment. We want our work to be aligned with those fighting for equity, justice, human dignity, and environmentally and culturally sustainable policies and practices. Our vision of allyship is focused not only on improving the aesthetics of place, but also on building platforms for voices that are underrepresented, celebrating local culture and customs, questioning power dynamics, and standing alongside those who want to take action in their own communities. We hope you’ll join us. And we hope you enjoy this issue of Public Art Review. It means a lot to us. We hope you, too, find meaning in it.


PROJECTS WE LOVE Select recent works


The works covered in Projects We Love were selected, researched, and written about by Public Art Review editorial staff.

Photo © Rael San Fratello.


In 2009, in reaction to the 2006 Secure Fence Act, two California professors drew images of a teeter-totter crossing the U.S.–Mexico border. They were architecture professor Ronald Rael at UC–Berkeley and interior design faculty member Virginia San Fratello at San Jose State University, the duo now behind the design studio Rael San Fratello. In 2017, Rael put those images into a book called Borderwall as Architecture: A Manifesto for the U.S.–Mexico Boundary. It wasn’t until 2019 that Teeter-Totter Wall would become a reality with the help of Colectivo Chopeke, which brings communities together through design. The three pink steel beams used for the seesaws were fabricated by a group of artists in Juárez and painted pink to remember women who have died in the city from violence since the 1990s. On July 28, 2019, those beams were installed through a part of the border fence near Juárez, Mexico, and Sunland Park, New Mexico. For 40 minutes, children and adults on both sides played together. Mexican soldiers and U.S. border patrol agents were present. While the installation was quickly dismantled, video and images of the event quickly made their way around the world. “The work is an act of protest, but we were not out there with picket signs,” Rael told PBS NewsHour. “We were not out there stating particular messages of resistance. We were demonstrating how the act of play, the act of engaging that place, was our act of resistance to say that, ‘This is our place,’ and we can dismantle the meaning of the wall and its violence.”






Brick House is a sculptural bust of a Black woman. It is the inaugural commission for the High Line Plinth, a platform on a new High Line spur that will feature a series of largescale public artworks in the midst of skyscrapers and industrial buildings. For artist Simone Leigh, the High Line Plinth’s location, at 30th Street and 10th Avenue in Manhattan, is meaningful. As she told the New York Times, she thought the commission “would be a great opportunity to have something about Black beauty right in the middle of that environment.” Leigh drew on many references to create the work—from African traditions to 1970s pop culture. The torso’s shape reflects both a skirt and the dwellings of the Mousgoum people of Cameroon and Chad. The hair—inspired by the character Thelma in Good Times, a 1970s TV show—has an afro on top and cornrow braids down the side. The sculpture itself is named after the Commodores song “Brick House,” which Leigh called a celebration of Black womanhood. Leigh has been exploring the experiences and social histories of Black women for more than 25 years. At 16 feet tall, Brick House is her largest work to date. She created it as a lifesize clay version before it was poured in bronze. Brick House is on display until September 2020.

Photos by Tim Schenck, courtesy the High Line.




In 2016, River City Company, Tinker Ma, and Public Art Chattanooga partnered to create an alley activation program called Passageways, which temporarily converted five downtown Chattanooga alleyways into pop-up art installations. For Passageways 2.0, a public space competition, the same partners sought to transform a 6,200-square-foot blighted alley into a vibrant pedestrian corridor through a spatial installation. The winning design was City Thread by SPORTS, the multidisciplinary architecture and design collaborative of Molly Hunker and Greg Corso. Constructed from a series of large, connected steel tubes that form a single, continuous volume through the alley,

City Thread breaks the alley into a series of “urban rooms.” It offers seating areas, mini-stages, and framing for murals and community gatherings like farmers markets and movie screenings. The designers see City Thread as a social connector, both formal and informal. “City Thread by SPORTS has transformed the alley into an interactive public art experience, providing a sense of discovery and exploration within Chattanooga’s urban environment,” says Meagan Shinn, program director of River City Company. “From ‘silent’ dance parties to outdoor films, the alley is now a place for our community and local businesses to utilize and enjoy.”




Photo by Chris Willis / River City Company.





TAUTRA, NORWAY, AND GLOBAL INSTALLATIONS POLLUTION PODS, BY MICHAEL PINSKY British artist Michael Pinsky’s Pollution Pods emulate the air quality of cities around the world. When you enter the first of five geodesic domes, you breathe the clean air and feel the climate of Tautra (right), which is near Trondheim in Norway. In the following four domes you move through increasingly warm and polluted environments found in London, New Delhi (top right), São Paulo, and Beijing (top left). In each, the air quality, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, and carbon monoxide levels are climatically controlled. “In the Pollution Pods, I have tried to distill the whole bodily sense of being in each place,” says Pinsky. “For instance, being in São Paulo seems like a sanctuary compared to New Delhi, until your eyes start to water from the sensation of ethanol, whilst Tautra is unlike any air you’ll have ever breathed before, it is so pure.” The project was commissioned by Climart, a Norwaybased research project that studies how climate-related artwork affects viewer perceptions of climate change. It is managed by Cape Farewell, an arts organization that raises awareness around climate change through fostering cross-disciplinary collaborations. Pollution Pods is currently touring the world. It was recently installed at the United Nations Climate Action Summit and Youth Climate Summit in New York.



Photos by Thor Nielsen / NTNU.






Tacony is a neighborhood in Northeast Philadelphia. But the community started as a company town after Henry Disston and two other men dug the foundation for the Disston Saw Works—which would become the largest saw manufacturing facility in the world—in 1872. To tell a condensed history of this place on a wall inside the Tacony Library, artist Benjamin Volta first spent time in the archives at the Historical Society of Tacony and consulted with neighborhood residents and historians. He then created a mural with ghostlike images and patterns from Tacony’s industrial history, many drawn from the Disston tool catalogue and the Disston Hand Book for Lumbermen. On this monochromatic installation, called Diligence, one figure is prominent. “The towering factory worker reminds me of my history teacher in junior high school who would dramatically stand on his desk and do everything he could to get us excited about the stories from the past,” says Volta. “Diligence is about the process of looking to the past to fuel an inward process of anticipation and discovery,” says Volta. It was commissioned by the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy’s Percent for Art Program and the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Photo by Steve Weinik.






Photos by Peter Peirce.


In the new entrance to PS14X, the Senator John Calandra School in the Bronx, Sandy Litchfield’s The Tree Inside Me fills the white lobby with color and story. Representing an urban garden oasis and a haven in which children can learn and grow, this 28x18-foot mosaic mural incorporates images of nature and the colors of the seasons. “The best part of this project was getting to know the community, especially the art teacher, Kerry Silva, and the fourth-grade students we worked with,” says Litchfield, who led 15 workshops with students about the mural’s themes and formal artistic concerns like color, value, and scale. “The students were so full of enthusiasm. They loved color and painting and thinking about what kind of world they could make in their imaginations.” The mural was commissioned by the New York City School Construction Authority, Public Art for Public Schools, and the New York City Department of Education. Litchfield consulted and collaborated with Franz Mayer of Munich on fabrication. The lower portion of The Tree Inside Me includes a touchable mix of glazed porcelain tile and glass mosaic fabricated by Mayer Studios. Litchfield made the upper portion, which consists of hand-cut and painted aluminum composite panels.




People with conviction histories face stigma when released from prison. And that stigma contributes to high rates of recidivism. That’s one of the reasons social practice artist Gregory Sale and many collaborators launched Future IDs, which offers people an opportunity to reflect on the American criminal justice system and second chances for people who’ve been in prison. The project is created by and with people who have conviction histories, who design artworks based on their prison-issued IDs. Sale’s hope is that their voices and visions for the future are amplified—and that visitors to Future IDs events are able to connect in a more meaningful way to people with conviction histories. “I am in awe of the personal, transformative risks these key collaborators and contributors are taking for this project,” says Sale. “They have allowed their images and words to appear in this exhibition and in videos and are participating in our public programs. They have come to trust the open, creative process and be vulnerable, putting themselves on display. Without this willingness, the work would not have been possible.”

Future IDs’ workshops, exhibitions, and public programs have been held across California since 2016. For the last year Alcatraz, once one of the most notorious federal prisons in the United States and now a national park, served as a powerful site for the project. Future IDs at Alcatraz included community programs, a network of community partnerships, and an exhibition that ran from July through October. It was presented in partnership with the National Park Service and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy’s Art in the Parks program.

TOP: Photo by Ben Leon. BOTTOM: Photo by Gregory Sale.





In October, South African artists Inka Kendzia and Faith XLVII presented Ad Pacem, their collaborative projection-mapped mural, in Cincinnati during the Blink Light Festival. The flag plays a central symbolic role in the work, say the artists, accentuating “the power of non-violent protest and negotiation in the pursuit of peace.” It appears both in paint and projection. Faith XLVII painted the mural, which was based on Eirene, the Greek goddess of peace. This aspect of the artwork “highlights the importance of actively working towards a society that functions on open communication and inclusion,” say the artists. Inka Kendzia’s projection—set to music by Stellamara— was constructed to interact within the artwork. According to the artists, its layered narrative alludes to “borders, immigration, freedom of movement, peaceful protest, government oppression and the strength of the human spirit in overcoming these challenges.” Blink Light, an art and light event featuring more than 100 installations, spanned more than 30 city blocks in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Covington, Kentucky. It is the largest event of its kind in the nation, with about 1.5 million visitors.


Photos by Chop ’em Down Films.





Athletics is a focus of artist Maria Molteni’s work. That’s why she was paired with Boston Centers for Youth & Families’ Perkins Center, which offers athletic programs, when she became an artist-in-residence through the City of Boston. At the Perkins Center she spent 11 months working with youth and teens from the Dorchester neighborhood, hosting after-school workshops on art, athletics, public space, and social justice. One of the things Molteni asked students to do is draw their own dream basketball courts. She incorporated their shapes, colors, and marks into a design for a 20,000-squarefoot mural to cover the public basketball court next door in Harambee Park. Artist-led and community-directed, the mural is called Hard in the Paint. It took two weeks for a team of adult artist colleagues, teenage girls hired from the Perkins center, and daily drop-in

participants from the community to paint the mural. Suggestions from passersby, drawn on chalkboards attached to the fence surrounding the court, were also added improvisationally. A team of local artists and teachers helped Molteni with final designs, painting, and open community paint days. Between her solo work and her collaboration in the collective New Craft Artists in Action, Maria Molteni has worked on radical, community-engaged mural makeovers of five basketball courts in Massachusetts, the birthplace of basketball. “Through our multifaceted projects, we want to invite more creative and inclusive voices and vibes to spaces that have been historically male-dominated and co-opted by corporate interests,” says Molteni. “We want to create spaces with and for communities in an era when many associate new urban public artwork with gentrification.”


Photo by George Fifield 2017.




TOP LEFT AND RIGHT: Photos by Maria Molteni 2017. BOTTOM: Photo by Greg Cook 2017.




Artists in the DOT City and state transportation departments shape communities in major ways. Now long-term artist residencies are helping them rethink what they do and how they do it. BY JON SPAYDE


won’t just be planning and overseeing street design, maintaining traffic signals, and repairing speed bumps—it will be working with an artist, too. When the department’s first artist-in-residence takes up a two-year commitment this fall, Chattanooga will become part of a trend: governmental transportation agencies, with their day-to-day responsibility for large swaths of urban and rural infrastructure, partnering with public art programs and other organizations to call on artists to help, not by making artworks or doing other one-off projects, but by being embedded in the agencies for long-term residencies. Their goal: to help create and rethink procedures—especially ways of interacting with the public—from the ground up. Chattanooga’s experience began when CDOT, led by Blythe Bailey, approached Katelyn Kirnie, director of Public Art Chattanooga (PAC). “Blythe was trained as an architect,” says Kirnie, “and he understands the role of artists in PORTATION (CDOT)

placemaking.” On his watch, she says, “CDOT wanted to get artists involved with all the projects they were doing. We soon realized that might be too ambitious, so we suggested a single artist-in-residence plan, and they were very enthusiastic.” The City Artist program was born in 2017. The artist was to be tasked with working closely with the agency, garnering community input in the underserved Southside Gardens neighborhood, and carrying out projects there. “But after the initial interviews we realized this plan asked too much of any given artist and didn’t allow CDOT the degree of control they wanted,” Kirnie says. “So we took the placemaking and the art-making components out and pared it back to embedding the artist in the department to kind of disrupt systems and projects with creative approaches.” Under the revised plan, the City Artist will help CDOT figure out fresh ways to interact with the community—to communicate the agency’s initiatives and gather community input. The artist will also help to come up with innovative

Photo by Ryan Stopera. OPPOSITE TOP: Photo courtesy the artists. OPPOSITE BOTTOM: Photos © Alan Nakagawa

News, Views, and Ideas


and economical methods of traffic calming—“beyond speed bumps,” Kirnie says. Storytelling in L.A. Some transportation departments, of course, have established residencies aimed specifically at the creation of artworks. Seattle’s DOT and its Office of Arts & Culture, for example, set up a short-term residency in which artists called attention to three of the city’s most iconic bridges via writings, a musical composition, and a lighting scheme. Indianapolis’s transpor-


is senior editor of Public Art Review.


OPPOSITE: Artist Marcus Young is now the Community Vitality Fellow at the Minnesota Department of Transportation. TOP: Kelly Gregory and Mary Welcome are now artists-in-residence at the Washington State Department of Transportation. BOTTOM LEFT: One of 36 Street Haikus donated by poets and installed by artist Alan Nakagawa while in residency at the Creative Catalyst program in Los Angeles. RIGHT: Nakagawa’s Perfume Bus Stop in Los Angeles.

Into the Statehouses Now, thanks to urbanist Ben Stone, director of arts and culture for the nonprofit Transportation for America, the DOT-embedded-residency trend has reached the state level. In July the DOTs of Washington State and Minnesota kicked off artist residencies, administered and funded by Transportation for America through a grant from ArtPlace America. Mary Welcome and Kelly Gregory joined the WSDOT, and Marcus Young is Cultural Vitality Fellow at MnDOT. “There are a lot of things that state DOTs want to do better and want to learn about, and we think this artist-in-residence model is a good way to help them,” Stone says. These include figuring out how to deal with the localstate conflicts, he notes. “For example, the main goal of the state agency is to move people efficiently through space, from city to city, core city to suburb, while the municipality is more concerned with the quality of the space itself, issues of aesthetics and safety and culture.” Artists can engage with push-pull issues like that in creative ways, he says. At the same time, state highways function as the main streets of many smaller towns that have no municipal DOTs of their own, and improving aesthetics, safety, and culture on these roadways can be a key state DOT contribution, with artists’ help. While it’s too early to say what Welcome, Gregory, and Young are planning for their state DOTs, Stone is upbeat on the way embedding can work in general. “Staff meetings, where you talk about what could be done better, are fine,” he says, “but there’s also something important about asking someone kind of naïve and not that familiar with the organization to come in and just kind of poke around. “It will be a fresh set of eyes. It will be a new way of thinking about things. I can’t promise what will come out of it, but I hope it will be something new and different, something unique.”


tation agency spearheaded a residency in which stories from riders were displayed on city buses. But the move toward allowing artists to have an impact on the transportation agencies themselves was pioneered by Los Angeles. In 2016 its Creative Catalyst program chose sound, visual, and public artist Alan Nakagawa for a one-year residency in which he created multiple public-facing works, including a “perfume box” at a city bus shelter that spritzed waiting riders’ hands with scents evocative of California landscapes. But he also set up workshops with staffers in which a professional storyteller showed them how to explain policies and issues to the public in livelier, more humane, less technocratic ways. And he recorded oral histories from former and current LADOT staffers and turned them into a podcast.




Artist Mary Miss and social ecologist Adrián Cerezo on the importance of complexity, relationships, and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in creating a more sustainable future. INTERVIEW BY KAREN OLSON

its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A blueprint for achieving a more sustainable future for all people, the SDGs were adopted by every country in the United Nations, including the United States. Among its 17 interconnected global goals to be reached by 2030 are zero hunger, gender equality, decent work and economic growth, and sustainable cities and communities. For the last few years, artist Mary Miss and social ecologist Adrián Cerezo have been in dialogue about the relationship between art and science in creating a world that is more sustainable and regenerative—and about how to integrate the SDGs into city-scale artworks. Miss has been working as an environmental artist since the 1960s. Today, her work with City as Living Laboratory is addressing sustainability on a city scale. It has received one NOAA grant and two National Science Foundation grants, including one for $3 million (the direct awardee was Butler University in Indianapolis), for work including a project along Broadway through New York City, and an Institute of Museum IN 2015 THE UNITED NATIONS ANNOUNCED

and Library Services grant for WaterMarks, an urban-scaled initiative to help the citizens of Milwaukee increase their water IQ. Cerezo has particular interest in early childhood development. He is an advisor to UNICEF as well as a research fellow at Yale University, and formerly worked in conversation research at the St. Louis Zoo and the Smithsonian. Here, they talk about their work, what they learn from each other, and the importance of recognizing complexity when addressing sustainability issues. What’s important to you in your individual work now and what are you aiming toward? MARY MISS: I was lucky enough to be able to work on an urban scale from the late ’80s and early ’90s, including a plan for the Grand Center district in Saint Louis with the architect Robert Mangurian, and Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens with Bernard Tschumi. The good part was that I got ABOVE: Renderings of Milwaukee’s Lake Michigan waterfront with illustrations of WaterMarks, a project that helps citizens better understand the city water system.

Images courtesy City as Living Laboratory.


City-Scale Sustainability

IN THE FIELD of issues around water that will be implemented in many diverse neighborhoods throughout the city. The idea is to create a conceptual framing, to set up a process, and then to invite other partners to help carry it out: city agencies, community organizations, academic institutions, but in particular, also, artists. With sites where we are working in New York City and Milwaukee we are seeing how artists can be catalysts, creating innovative means of community engagement, but also how artists can help communities to imagine their own futures. It’s taken quite a long time to get to the point where the project is operating on all cylinders. Adrián and I laughingly call this the slow cooking of public art. There’s no end date. We’re lucky enough to have the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District say they will maintain the elements of the project. We’re putting together a community of people that can help keep it alive and up to date—academic institutions, city agencies, and community organizations. For a project like this to materialize over time it needs to be taken on by the city itself. ADRIÁN CEREZO: In my career—following on the path that has been opened by other social ecologists—I have been looking at how we make that relationship between humans and


Pillars of Dreams, 2019 26.5’ H X 23’ W X 43’ D Powder-Coated Aluminum Stainless Steel Rivets

Valerie C. Woodard Center • Charlotte, NC

Collection of Mecklenburg County commissioned in partnership with the Arts & Science Council and the Public Art Commission

Photo by: NAARO


to work on projects that were of a substantial scale and really urban. The unfortunate thing is that most of those projects didn’t proceed beyond the planning stage. But they laid the groundwork for the City as Living Laboratory, where we are focusing on the important roles artists can have in helping to address the complex issues that communities are dealing with, such as those resulting from our changing climate. As I began to articulate a vision for City as Living Laboratory, I wanted cities to know that artists have enormous capacity to address complexity. I wanted to engage more artists in this territory, and that’s led to the work along Broadway in New York City and in Milwaukee. The WaterMarks project has been going on in Milwaukee for five years—we don’t presume that a single project, or a single artist, or a single planner or scientist, or any single person, can take on the protection of the city’s water resources or the defense of Lake Michigan, but that it really has to be a constellation of collaborators. I’ve been lucky enough during this process to get to know a number of scientists other than Adrián, and that was something that they emphasized: the importance of the scale to have impact. So to be able to have this project in Milwaukee evolve to the scale of the city is just really exciting to me, because we’re creating a network focused on a particular set


IN THE FIELD and interacting with communities dealing with their issues, whatever their issues are, you’re connecting so many other issues at the same time, whether it’s health, or education, or social justice. If you talk about any one of these issues you’re probably touching at least half of the rest of the SDGs. It allows for lenses to be applied to particular situations, but I think it’s also articulating complexity in a very helpful way. Do you introduce the Sustainable Development Goals to community members as a tool they can use? MARY MISS: Yes. Earlier this summer we had this meeting with 26 different groups that we had worked with over the past several years, to talk about how WaterMarks was going to



“ONE OF THE FUNCTIONS OF ART IS THAT IT ALLOWS US TO GET A HANDLE ON THE IMMENSITY OF SOMETHING WITHOUT GETTING OVERWHELMED.” —Adrián Cerezo complex, and so large, the first thing everybody says is, It’s just too much. Art is beautiful in that it allows sustainable development to become reasonable for people, even if it’s not perfectly understandable—because escaping total comprehension is a feature of complexity. But with art you can get a sense of it, and that sense of it is not overwhelming. Art sends the message that it’s reasonable, that it’s important, and creates a feeling that you can take it on, and that it’s good to take it on. Mary’s hope that this becomes self-sustaining and embedded in the community is more possible because it is being created by the community. It’s using the power of art to help the community see the power in itself. MARY MISS: I have to say that complexity is the keyword in all of this work. The thing that I realized from the beginning is that once you start talking about water, for instance,

be proceeding in the future. The head of the municipal sewer district in Milwaukee, Kevin Schafer, is quite a remarkable man. Here is an engineer, the head of this huge municipal sewer district, who has been a tremendous supporter from the very beginning. He had this lapel pin, and he said, roughly, “This represents the UN sustainability goals, and it’s just so important to me that a project like Mary’s is bringing so many of these issues to the surface. This is not just about water.” How do the SDGs and public art inform each other? ADRIÁN CEREZO: No one institution has the capacity to absorb all of the elements that are included in the Sustainable Development Goals, so it has to be done in a collaborative way that has two features. One is that organizations involved in the work on the Sustainable Development Goals have to be really good at what they’re focused on, whether it is, say, gender issues, or

TOP: Photo courtesy Mary Miss. BOTTOM: Photo courtesy Adrián Cerezo.



nonhuman nature more reasonable and more sustainable. It’s about the relationships that we have with each other, and what those relationships have to do with taking on hard questions in a reasonable way that is equitable, that promotes justice. So it’s a great thing to come into a collaboration with City as Living Laboratory. It’s hard from the fields of natural science to understand the incredible power that art has, the power that it can bring to all of these questions, but I’m seeing the kind of quiet, slow, respectful work that Mary does when she’s starting to build a process in a community, and how the artistic endeavor itself creates this opportunity for people to make sense of what is basically grabbing sand. Because the project of sustainable development is so

IN THE FIELD We have often heard these threats: If you don’t recycle... If you don’t… And that kind of fear that people are being asked to embrace is just so ineffectual. It’s not that I don’t believe we’re in crisis, but how can you provide a path to dealing with it in your work? That’s the thing I keep thinking about.

MARY MISS: The work that I’m doing now I started more than 50 years ago. The basis for all of this, this idea of thinking in terms of constellations instead of singular projects, focusing on means of engagement, being willing to take on the complexity and crossing boundaries, is a way of thinking that was really established for me during this early period. I am absolutely convinced that artists have a profound way of communicating that allows people to connect with this complexity, with these issues.


ADRIÁN CEREZO: It’s being able to kind of release the problem and start thinking about it from the perspective of what it looks like when we get our act together. That’s the other reason that I gravitated towards City as Living Laboratory. What is it that we can do together to make sustainable development possible, reasonable, respectful? All of those things that are so important to the work of City as Living Laboratory, and so important for the success of the Sustainable Development Goals. is editor in chief of Public Art Review.

Funding and the SDGs In 2019, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors released a two-volume guide for funders on how to align with the Sustainable Development Goals. In addition to practical advice on how to plan, assess, report, and act on the SDGs, the guide gives examples of how philanthropic funders are addressing social and environmental challenges. Available at


Interconnected: Data Paintings and Sculptures, 2018 2,000+ square feet of LED media walls and 850 linear feet of programmable LED lights

Collection of Charlotte Douglas International Airport

Commissioned in partnership with the Arts & Science Council and the Public Art Commission

Photo by: NAARO


justice, or water quality, or climate change. But they also have to be very good at being able to align their work with the work of other participants. One of the functions of art is that it allows us to get a handle on the immensity of something without getting overwhelmed. It allows us to be okay with being in the presence of things we don’t completely understand, and to build out of trust rather than out of complete mastery of things. Sustainability is way too complex to do as just a technical project that doesn’t consider relationships and what we can do with our imagination and our creativity. And it’s essential that funding organizations, city and state governments, and nonprofits start seeing themselves as part of this larger endeavor.




Owning It


The CLTV, a Memphis arts organization, is planning housing that will generate revenue. For director Victoria Jones, owning, investing, and “growing past grants” are pledges of Black autonomy and hope. INTERVIEW BY TRICIA HEURING

said Victoria Jones, “with tears in her eyes saying, ‘I’m so proud of y’all. Keep pushing. And I’m going to tell you this, you’re in Orange Mound now. You opened the doors here, you can’t go anywhere.’ With that responsibility of sustainability placed on our shoulders, we can’t wait for the system to amazingly change overnight for us.” Victoria Jones is executive director of the CLTV, “the Collective,” a nonprofit arts organization that provides a platform and resources for Black artists in Memphis, Tennessee. After four years in pop-up and other temporary spaces, the CLTV opened its first brick-and-mortar space in 2019, a co-working and gallery space called the CMPLX, in the Orange Mound neighborhood. More than a space, the CMPLX is a practice in systems change through autonomy. Inspired by the rich history of Orange Mound, Jones is manifesting an art space story that includes ownership, empowerment, and lasting legacy. “WE HAD A RESIDENT COME TO THE GALLERY ONE DAY,”

Tell me about Orange Mound, where your work is centered. What is important to know about this place? Orange Mound is the oldest neighborhood in the United States founded not just for Black people but by Black people. Newly freed enslaved Africans built the homes that exist

here, built the businesses that still stand, and really carved out space for Black folks. It’s got this rich legacy, rich history that people still cling to…especially current residents. The city has not invested in this neighborhood, has not honored this space the way it should. But the people who live here continue to celebrate it. This neighborhood is said to have the highest level of civic engagement and civic pride in the entire city. Despite backs being turned on this neighborhood, the folks that live here still find ways to commune. Pull up to Melrose High School, the historic high school in Orange Mound, on Wednesday at four in the afternoon. You’ll see peewee football leagues, folks playing in the park, on the basketball court, sitting in their front yards on milk crates. Folks still building and living in this community. Did this legacy inspire the establishment of the CLTV’s new space, the CMPLX, in Orange Mound? When it came time for us to figure out our own brick-andmortar, we got tapped by a few other neighborhoods that were being heavily invested in. We were asked to activate different spaces. For example, they would offer discounted rent for two years to get the space activated while they built up apartment complexes. They were honest about the direction it would

LEFT: Photo by MadameFraankie. RIGHT: Photo by Catherine Elizabeth Patton.



Much of the arts funding landscape focuses on programming, but many organizers like you are deeply committed to investment in infrastructure and space. What truths about that are important for funders and philanthropists to understand today? We had to start from scratch, and not because no one has ever thought to do something like this. It’s not because this is the first generation of artists who had the ability. No, we had to start from scratch because there was no real investment in the organization before us and the one before that. By not truly investing in this organization, what funders are doing is charging the next generation with starting from scratch as well. And if you’re talking about equity and what comes next, this needs to change. But if I’m being honest, I don’t want to wait on anyone else to decide they’re ready to make a better situation for the folks I care about. Our plan is to grow past grants and funders. It feels odd to have to try to explain myself in grant applications to someone who would be afraid to drive through my neighborhood. That power dynamic doesn’t translate for me. I want to focus on making the money ourselves.

OPPOSITE LEFT: Juneteenth celebration at the CMPLX in Memphis’s Orange Mound neighborhood. OPPOSITE RIGHT: Victoria Jones is executive director of the CLTV, which opened the CMPLX in 2019.

In the next few years, beyond ownership of space(s), how do you see the CLTV/CMPLX thriving? We want—need—to set roots for a Black arts and culture mecca. We want to engage as many Black arts and culture organizations as possible to do work in one space and watch it change the community. I want to be able to work next door to people I am already working in the trenches with. I want to see what our synergy leads to. I want to see all of us not adding, but multiplying. I want to be intentional about our shared resources, our plans, how we elevate each other. By concentrating our efforts in one neighborhood, the oldest Black neighborhood in the nation, it will be remarkable. In the next two years, five years, ten years, if we get it right, it will be something to hand off to the next generation. is a curator, arts organizer, and educator. Her curatorial practice is balanced between individualized support for emerging artists and building systemic change in the nonprofit arts sector. She is the co-founder of Public Functionary, a multidisciplinary Minneapolis-based arts and exhibition platform, and works as a consultant with Forecast Public Art. TRICIA HEURING


Having found a consistent home, and settling into the CMPLX, what does long-term impact in this neighborhood mean to you? A lot of our recent conversations have been around ownership. We’re still renting, but we’re past the point of that being okay. We’re taking steps towards owning space. I think ownership has been missing for a lot of folks—artists, yes, but most especially for Black folks. It was illegal for us to even own land for so long. We’re playing catch-up in the land ownership conversation. Being out of the conversation takes away our ability to dictate the future of our spaces. We’re not invited to the table because we don’t have to be; no one has to talk to us if everybody is leasing. So we are trying to work with current residents, trying to empower Black artists, and encourage folks who left this neighborhood to move back and purchase property.

Is there a specific project that focuses on your own agency to make money within the organization? Would you share one of the plans you have for generating revenue? We’re trying to figure out artist housing that will hopefully be up and running in two years by working with JUICE Orange Mound, a community organization that has deeprooted connections to folks living here currently. They recently divided Orange Mound up into seven different zones, and designated a zone captain for each one. The captain is responsible for canvassing their seven- or eightblock radius to understand the specific needs there. We are working to buy a home in each of the zones. Each home would ideally have three or four bedrooms: one for an artist to live in, one for an artist studio, and one for an Airbnb. The living room and outdoor spaces would be committed to community convening space. The idea is to lean on the zone captain to help gauge the need in the zone, and then find an artist resident to live in the house in exchange for providing a service the community needs. For example, we may find out from the zone captain that families need a place for kids to hang out after school. So we’ll find an artist who has experience to engage with the youth intentionally. The third room in the house would be rentable as an Airbnb, which would lead to revenue. It’s important that just one room is rented, while the rest of the house stays consistent for neighbors. I’m excited about exploring this. If we do it correctly it would support our operational costs, while getting artists inside Black neighborhoods to do really good work.


head, that rent would increase after those first years. But we had to consider— if we were going to activate a space or neighborhood—where did we want to use our creative energy? Who would we really want it to benefit? Orange Mound made the most sense. We had done some programming at Orange Mound Gallery, which is now right next door to the CMPLX. It felt like home. We found the space where our energy would benefit the folks who look like us and have stories like ours.




BY GRETCHEN RUIZ RAMOS TWO RECENT EVENTS HAVE FOREVER MARKED the lives of Puerto Ricans. One was Hurricane María, which struck the island on September 20, 2017, leaving a humanitarian crisis that will linger for years to come. The other was in July 2019, when more than a million people—almost a third of the island’s population— filled the streets with protests, forcing Governor Ricardo Rosselló to resign. People reached a boiling point when 889 pages of leaked Telegram app messages were published by the Center of Investigative Journalism of Puerto Rico, unveiling a corrupt government whose officials joked about the María deaths and made violent homophobic and sexist remarks against political opponents, journalists, and other public figures. Images of artists employing creative forms of activism at the center of these #VeranoDel2019 (Summer of 2019) protests have impacted the world. Leading the charge on social media and on the ground was pop star Ricky Martin, who called on all sectors of society to demand respect for the LGBTTQ+ community and to join him in the nationwide protests. The influential musician “artivists” Residente, Bad Bunny, and iLe collaborated in “Afilando Los Cuchillos” (“Sharpening Knives”), a hymn designed to fire up protesters. The underground

Photo by Gretchen Ruiz Ramos.

A hurricane, a political crisis, and years of economic dislocation have taken their toll on Puerto Rico and its artists—but passionate creativity still flourishes

In July 2019, over one million Puerto Ricans went to the streets demanding the resignation of Governor Ricardo RossellĂł. He stepped down on August 2.

intersect at the core of Puerto Rican identity. In the social sphere, tangible and intangible cultural assets where public art coexists with historic structures built by the Spaniards come alive with music, gastronomy, and other cultural and artistic manifestations. Above all, Puerto Ricans like to socialize. One could argue socializing is actually an art form on the island. As the protests proved, art can be revolutionary and a tool for healing a nation. But art cannot bring back the dead. Puerto Ricans have become resigned to never knowing the exact number of deaths caused by María. Rosselló’s lack of transparency after the emergency put him at odds with Washington. Almost a year after María, Rosselló’s administration kept insisting on an official death toll of 64, until a study published by Harvard University in May 2018

Photo by Gretchen Ruiz Ramos.

was relentless in using creativity as a driving force, from protest signs to memes and viral campaign hashtags like #RickyRenuncia (“Ricky Resign”), to acrobats dangling from street signs in the highways, to yoga marathons. Perhaps the most impactful performance was “Perreo Combativo,” a reggaetón dance-off organized by feminist group Colectiva Feminista en Construcción, intended to celebrate ancestral Afrocentric sexuality and how the performing female body can serve as an intersectional tool to decolonize and liberate a nation from governmental corruption. Such diversity should come as no surprise. Although Puerto Rico is the smallest of the Greater Antilles in the Caribbean, measuring 100 by 35 miles, its rich cultural heritage has deep roots beyond its coasts. Taíno, Spanish, and African cultures

Photos by Nema Etebar, courtesy Creative Time. OPPOSITE: Photo by Mel D. Cole, courtesy Creative Time.


Hurricane María impacted public art islandwide. Already challenged by maintenance issues, only one piece of Carlos Guzmán’s sculpture Cardúmen Onírico remains intact after the hurricane (it’s pictured on top of one of the four pillars near the water in this photo). A hedge fund manager has since rented the public square and installed a sculpture by Fernando Botero in front of Guzmán’s work (pictured in the foreground).

Museums, archives, and libraries also suffered extensively and are in dire need of recovery funds. Structural damage to historic buildings has affected thousands of collections, including those of the General Archives of Puerto Rico and the National Library. The main hazard in the aftermath of María was loss of electricity. Six months of constant blackouts, the most widespread in American history, saw mold growth caused by high humidity levels and lack of climate control. Several large-scale sculptures in the San Juan Botanical Garden of the University of Puerto Rico were damaged by high winds and still lie broken on the ground. And no one knows for sure how many artists lost the roofs of their studios. Before María, financial support for culture was already in decline. The economic crisis was evident in urban centers and parks, where sculptures commissioned for public art initiatives during the first decade of the twentyfirst century succumbed to the elements and water fountains shut down, rendered useless. In 2006, engulfed in a debt crisis comparable only to Greece’s, Puerto Rico entered a recession. Austerity measures resulted in substantial cuts in funding for cultural institutions, including the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico and Museo de Arte Contemporáneo. The hardest-hit victim has been the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (ICP), founded in 1955, which is barely surviving. It’s short on staff and resources to fulfill its mission to preserve, promote, enrich, and disseminate the cultural values and the arts of the people of Puerto Rico and to provide citizens of the island’s 78 municipalities with a broader and deeper knowledge of them. ICP is also in charge of historical buildings and small municipal museums across the island. But in 2013 it had to close the National Gallery, an exhibition space for a curated selection of the 60,000 artifacts in its collection. On the positive side, a younger generation strives to make a change from within nonprofit organizations by means of cultural entrepreneurship. Newly formed initiatives like Nuestro Barrio, under the auspices of Universidad del Sagrado Corazón in Santurce, are drawing the blueprint others will follow on revitalization of urban areas. The approach links cultural and business activity with the community while promoting economic development of the area.

PUERTO RICO’S PUBLIC ART: TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS An initiative to integrate art in public spaces was planned by the first woman governor of the island, Sila María Calderón, in 1998, during her term as mayor of the capital city of San Juan. The commissioning of 25 outdoor sculptures


put the figure closer to 4,645. (Another study, by George Washington University, had a high-end estimate of 3,000 deaths.) This provoked a constant state of distrust between the local and federal governments, causing delays in much-needed, and already-assigned, recovery funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery from the Department of Housing. In the meantime, blue tarp roofs can still be seen everywhere from the mountains and countryside to communities in the metropolitan areas. Not as visible but just as worrisome is the electric infrastructure, which remains dangerously fragile.


NEGLECT—AND CARE—OF A VETERAN SCULPTOR’S WORK One of the island’s venerable sculptors, Carlos Guzmán, has been directly affected by this failure of public policy.

Corrosion ate away at his sculptural installation Cardúmen Onírico, located in one of the oceanfront plazas of Condado, a major tourist zone in San Juan. When the central piece was damaged to the point of no return, it was deemed a public hazard and was removed by the city. For years residents and visitors had warned the city that the sculpture needed proper upkeep, that there was time to save it, but their calls were ignored. The six smaller pieces flanking the central sculpture were restored in 2017 with private funds. Then, three months after the restoration, María destroyed five of them. Only one piece from the installation remains standing, functioning as a living memorial of the massive destruction caused by the hurricane. The plaza was given a new sculpture to replace Guzmán’s: a Botero from the collection of hedge fund magnate John Paulson, who currently rents the square. As of today, no one knows if Guzmán could reclaim the platform to install a new work, or for how long Paulson will have control of what’s supposed to be a public square. The case exemplifies how private interests can easily

Photo by Gretchen Ruiz Ramos.

to be installed in the city led to an even more ambitious public art project that was developed in 2001 through the Public Art Law of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico: a fund was established for the construction and preservation of public art by Puerto Rican artists, with a budget of $25 million for 100 artworks to be located island-wide. Critics objected to the costs associated with the bill, and when Calderón completed her term in office, the law was revoked by the opposition party. This resulted in the elimination of funds allocated for the maintenance of existing artworks. Sadly, the majority of the works have deteriorated, and some have been almost totally destroyed by the elements, especially those near the Atlantic coast, where saltwater has corroded them. The damage has shifted the public’s perception of the artworks from amenities to that of public nuisances.

In the last decade many galleries have closed in Santurce—the most densely populated barrio in San Juan—due to rising real estate prices. Since then Puerto Rican and international artists gathering for the Santurce Es Ley urban art festival have painted large-scale murals there along Calle Cerra, a main thoroughfare.

replace local labor and take over public spaces in a fragile economy lacking the framework to support its own artists. Guzmán had a different experience with the restoration of La Tintorera after María. This large vertical sculpture is installed at La Pared Beach, a surfing spot in the municipality of Luquillo. A 45-minute drive towards the east from San Juan, Luquillo is also the artist’s hometown, where he lives and has his studio. Guzmán explains that his neighbors’ and the surfing community’s sense of ownership made a difference in the sculpture’s upkeep and maintenance. “The locals constantly approached me to restore the work, including volunteers of different backgrounds and ages,” he says. “All this because over time the artwork becomes part of their environment and therefore is already part of their lives. That is where this sense of belonging is born.” Guzmán underlines the relationship between community ownership and care: “Where the spectator makes the work his own and therefore takes care of it, he protects it because his identity can be seen as close as possible in it.”

AN ARTS FESTIVAL BRINGS HOPE In the past decade, the urban art festival called Santurce Es Ley has made a positive impact on the San Juan neighborhood of Santurce, helping the barrio adapt to the economic crisis, during which real estate prices forced many gallery spaces in the area to close permanently. The first edition of the festival in 2011 saw galleries set up pop-up exhibitions in trailers along Calle Cerra, while muralists created monumental works for public consumption in an event that lasted several days. The area is now recognized globally as a tourist destination; the late television gourmet Anthony Bourdain taped a show there. What makes this initiative self-sustaining is that these murals don’t require an investment for preservation against the environment or the elements; they’re regularly replaced by new works that the urban artists paint over them. These murals are only susceptible to man-made changes in the architecture of the wall space, or vandalism.




Photo by Gretchen Ruiz Ramos.

The La Puerta women’s art collective painted over a mural of the Puerto Rican flag, substituting black for its original colors in a sign of protest against the oversight board mandated by the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act of the United States Congress.


THE WAY FORWARD There is a long path to recovery for the art and artists of Puerto Rico, and many entities have been helping, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the Smithsonian Institution, CERF+, National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC), and Flamboyán Foundation (LinManuel Miranda’s art fund), among others. But the reconstruction of Puerto Rico’s infrastructure will take years and the economic crisis is not making the process any easier. Artists are still in need of workspaces, financial aid, and new markets in which to sell their work. Even though the high cost of living is a burden for many, a majority prefer to stay rather than migrate to the United States. Some diaspora artists have even returned to Puerto Rico to be part of the social movement and make a positive impact on the preservation of the island’s natural and cultural resources for generations to come. is a museum specialist, photographer, and educator working with the arts community in Puerto Rico. After hurricanes Irma and María impacted the island in 2017, she has focused on the recovery of cultural institutions, arts organizations, and artists. Pedro Vélez contributed to this article. GRETCHEN RUIZ RAMOS


But not everyone in Puerto Rico’s art world sees tourism and gentrification as the saviors of our underrepresented and marginal communities; more radical voices are being heard, especially in the art community. In 2016, the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) was imposed by the United States Congress. Its official summary declared it to be “a bill that addresses Puerto Rico’s debt by establishing an oversight board, a process for restructuring debt, and expedited procedures for approving critical infrastructure projects.” Several days after PROMESA was implemented, the women’s art collective La Puerta (The Door) created an icon by altering a Puerto Rican flag painted on a door in an abandoned building in Old San Juan. Black was substituted for the red and blue of the flag—a controversial but representative statement of what the island was going through. The door became an instant icon, reproduced endlessly in selfies, posters, T-shirts, music videos, book covers, and decolonization movements. Three years have gone by and the door is still standing. The collective included a public statement in their intervention: “Let this act serve as an invitation to reflect and take action in the face of the collapse of the education and health system, the privatization and destruction of our natural resources, the colonial status, the trampling of the future labor force, the payment of an illegitimate debt, the imposition of an anti-democratic government, the strangulation of cultural management, among others. This act is a sign that there is an artistic community that is not standing idly by, that is willing to fight against atrocities, against the imposition of an absolutist government and its austerity policies, the most recent: the Fiscal Oversight Board (PROMESA).” During the anti-government protests of 2019, black-and-white flags appeared again and again in the sea of people.


Equity There’s a new kind of practitioner in town, one that bridges the gap between good design and social justice—and dismantles systems of exclusion. ESSAY BY JEN KRAVA / PROFILES BY JON SPAYDE


Art and design professionals have long collaborated to ask questions about our shared public spaces, the land we are on, our relationships to one another, and our built environment, and recently we’ve seen a rise in social practice, community-centered design, and co-design emerging as new ways to practice. Historically, architecture and public design practices have been largely dominated by White designers, and traditional art and design education have mostly eliminated community members and social issues from this process of investigation. Over the past few years we have seen an emergence of artists and designers of color, bringing lived experienced to the places they design, leading the charge in changing what questions are asked, and engaging their skills as facilitators and listeners rather than only as outside experts. Essentially, they’re addressing issues of social justice. Here’s why this shift is so important: Inequitable distribution of access to food, healthcare, parks, safe and stable housing, and welcoming spaces are all results of the many years of unbalanced, discriminatory policies and decisions made by a privileged few on local and national levels. When architects, landscape architects, and urban planners address these inequities through more inclusive and equitable community-centered processes, these dominant systems can be dismantled—through design. Engaging community members, young people, elders, new immigrants, indigenous people, residents and others as partners is an essential part of the process and necessary to ensuring equity. Designers working

in this way are setting a new standard for what “good” design should look like in our country and who gets to decide. The design process itself—when designers ask questions, analyze current conditions, find gaps, and work to resolve these gaps—is where significant change can begin. When the community is involved, the act of evaluating systems, processes, and programs is itself a form of social justice. Designers who prioritize inclusion are: • sharing power with community members, creating access to processes not every community has had the privilege of being involved in; • understanding the mechanisms that perpetuate oppression, and dismantling systems and tenets of White supremacy that have dominated the creation of

Photo by Emily Hagopian.



Design for

Restore Oakland was designed by architect Deanna Van Buren and associates at Designing Justice + Designing Spaces to support the restorative justice process outside the courtroom. It includes paint colors to support peace and calm, multiple large windows, and chairs arranged in circles.

our built environment, distribution of resources, and access to power; • putting empathy at the forefront of their process, using deep listening skills to truly understand the needs of people affected by these oppressive systems, amplifying human dignity, connecting people to each other, and remembering that people are human beings with emotions and opinions; • creating spaces and places that are designed for the person who currently has the least amount of access, and working cues into the design that all are actually welcome in the space; and • generating actions, operations, and locations that

establish social and physical conditions which encourage and allow people to reach their full human potential—and to do this work themselves. “People don’t think they deserve good design,” Quardean Lewis-Allen, founder of Made in Brownsville, once said to me. That means design is seen as being reserved for only certain people. But because design creatively addresses challenges and prompts examination of how we use our shared resources, we can all benefit from it. And because a more inclusive approach essentially creates new systems and methods of movement, sharing, and use of space, good design changes the course of our existence. Read on about the work of Quardean and others who are breaking processes open and addressing issues of social justice through their design work.


ABOVE: Deanna Van Buren, co-founder and design director of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces (DJDS). OPPOSITE ABOVE: DJDS designed the Women’s Mobile Refuge Center in Oakland, California, to provide a safe space for women recently released from incarceration to prepare for transition back into their communities. OPPOSITE BELOW: Entrance to DJDS-designed Restore Oakland, a space for resolving conflicts, obtaining legal counseling for housing issues, training for higher-paid jobs in the restaurant industry, hosting community organizing meetings, and enjoying meals at COLORS, a living wage restaurant.

Photos by Emily Hagopian.



For six years, Deanna Van Buren worked in the mainstream of architecture designing large retail structures in Europe. On her return home to the U.S. she was keen to reconnect with African-American culture. So on Martin Luther King’s birthday in 2006, she went to a Black church in East Oakland, California, to hear the veteran activist Angela Davis and her sister, Fania. The topic: restorative justice—in which victims, perpetrators, and community members meet to decide how to repair the harm done by crime. Van Buren had an epiphany. Restorative justice, with its emphasis on human connection and solution-finding rather than abstract statutes, struck her as “a much more logical, more realistic approach than our current judicial system. It’s more aligned with human nature. ‘Blind justice,’ absolutely objective justice, is impossible,” she says. “We’re subjective, emotional beings, and a system that allows for that is the one we need to embrace, because it works.” She found her life’s work that night: designing spaces for restorative justice to flourish. For her, current “justice architecture”—courtrooms, jails—is too rigid and forbidding for the restorative paradigm. “Architecture amplifies our social interactions,” she says. “The current spaces, and the activities that go on in them, are traumatizing.” With developer Kyle Rawlins, she founded Designing Justice + Designing Spaces (DJDS), a nonprofit architectural and real estate development firm in Oakland. Generally partnering with community organizations, DJDS has developed restorative justice and peacemaking spaces and structures. The design challenges include balancing an open, light-filled, domestic-scaled atmosphere open to the natural world and including objects of beauty—all of which help participants “regulate their nervous systems,” Van Buren says—with giving participants a sense of safety. But DJDS also addresses the needs that foster the “schoolto-prison pipeline” in communities of color: with, for example, a refurbished city bus that serves as a mobile schoolhouse bringing learning and other resources to struggling neighborhoods; and the Women’s Mobile Refuge Center, a mobile unit that allows women who have been released from incarceration in the middle of the night (a standard practice) to spend a safe night and prepare themselves for the next phase of their lives. (Van Buren, who begins every project with listening sessions, was surprised to hear that the women didn’t want beds in the trailer. “They didn’t want to take a nap,” she says. “They wanted to get their hair ready, get a change of clothes, contact their caseworker. They did want comfortable furniture they didn’t have in jail—a Barcalounger!”) For Van Buren, these new structures and spaces are not just adaptations to new attitudes about justice; they’re ways of concretizing them. “When you build for a new set of beliefs about justice,” she says, “I believe it anchors the beliefs.”



SATOKO MURATAKE When landscape architect Satoko Muratake graduated from the University of Minnesota College of Design, she had done plenty of theoretical study but, as she puts it, “I felt that the people focus was lacking. I wanted more engagement with communities. How does what I do affect the lives of people?” Muratake, born in Japan and now a Senior Associate at Minneapolis’ TEN x TEN landscape architectural firm, has continued to live that question, working on projects that elevate the voices behind historic contexts and facilitate co-creation of public places that foster a sense of belonging in the community. The first of these came right after she earned her Master of Landscape Architecture degree at UMN. “I stumbled into Juxtaposition Arts,” she says. Juxtaposition began as an after-school arts mentorship program for urban youth in Minneapolis’s North Side, and has evolved into a center for training in arts-and-design-based skills that allow opportunities for self-discovery, entrepreneurship, and academic advancement. The organization was about to buy a property for a permanent home, and Muratake brought her research experience to bear on understanding the demographics and the needs of the area. Fifty percent of North Minneapolis’s population was under 21; the majority were African American, with a high percentage of Asians and Hispanics and some Native Americans. Thirty-six percent of population

ABOVE: The team at TEN x TEN, landscape architecture and urban design practice. Satoko Muratake is in the back row, second from right. TOP: TEN x TEN’s design for the 26th Avenue Overlook, which aims to provide access to the Mississippi River in North Minneapolis.

was below poverty level. There were needs for positive mentorship, educational opportunities, and creative outlets for young people in the neighborhood, and Juxtaposition Arts fit right in to fill the gap. As part of her work in program planning, Muratake and others taught kids architectural design skills and implemented some public art ideas with youth coming to the program, like pocket park, street furniture, and mural. “It was about giving people the tools they need to make their own mark, to take their own place in society,” she says.

Photos by Morgan OPPOSITE TOP: Image courtesy TEN xPhoto TEN. OPPOSITE BOTTOM: Photo courtesy Photos by NemaSheff. Etebar, courtesy Creative Time. OPPOSITE: by Mel D. Cole, courtesy Creative Time.TEN x TEN.

RIGHT: Created by a diverse team of community design professionals, the Rondo Commemorative Plaza and gardens is an urban pocket park. It marks the history of the the traditionally Black community that was displaced during the 1960s expansion of Interstate 94. One of Satoko Muratake’s roles on the project was to lead a design workshop with their client, the nonprofit Rondo Avenue, Inc., which aims to keep the neighborhood’s memory alive.

Muratake has been an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota and a Research Fellow at its Metropolitan Design Center, but at TEN x TEN she has been able to collaborate on creating spaces where stories from the margins of Twin Cities society and history can be told. When TEN x TEN and collaborators were brought in to create a park and plaza memorializing the Rondo neighborhood, a center of St. Paul’s Black life that was destroyed when an interstate spur was built through its heart, one of Muratake’s roles was to lead a design workshop with Rondo Avenue, Inc., the community nonprofit that has worked tirelessly to keep the memory of the neighborhood alive. “Rondo was a great and truly community-led project,” she says. “We were humbled by their visions.” She’s also working on TEN x TEN’s part in an ambitious project aimed at transforming the drab Mississippi riverfront in North Minneapolis in ways that allow its residents to enjoy the river. “Uncovering stories like the institutional racism that led to the destruction of a community like Rondo, or reclaiming Mississippi River access for the North Minneapolis community are complex tasks,” she says. “It takes visionary community leaders, political will, dedication, and time.” For her, collaboration with the community has been a powerful experience. “I believe we grew together as we shared many views of how to address the social issues of our time through design, art, and youth education,” she says. “Going forward, we hope to build a like-minded working community, making places that are just, authentic, inclusive, and future-focused.”

QUARDEAN LEWIS-ALLEN color, I needed the best credential I could possibly get.” He cites the barriers that most designers of color are up against: the costs of licensing are significant, family connections in the profession are few—and mentoring can be hard to come by. So MiB teaches and mentors high-school-age young people in design thinking, art, multimedia, and tech and communication skills—including graphic design, video, animation, 3D design, printmaking, painting, 3D modeling and fabrication, photography, coding, robotics, and web design and development. It’s a nonprofit, but Lewis-Allen is by no means tied to that model. “Too often, folks serving marginalized communities feel like the nonprofit route is the only way to go,” he says. “But we lose out on important things like access to property if we aren’t building equity. There’s a piece of MiB that can be a for-profit entity and probably be very successful.” While he says there are no immediate plans for such an entity, preparations are under way to launch Made in East New York in the neighborhood that adjoins Brownsville on the southeast. And he hopes the projects can expand their impact. “We can use digital marketing and media to forward the goals of small business and the arts community here,” he says. “To create an online hub for information and resource sharing that can put a positive spotlight on the neighborhood—for a positive economic and social impact for the next generation.”

Photo by Shot By Jason. OPPOSITE PAGE: Photos courtesy Made in Brownsville.



“Early in my life, I experienced the loss of a family member by gun violence,” says Quardean Lewis-Allen. “It had to do with a vacant lot. I wanted to break the association between vacant spaces and violence—and improve the quality of life in the neighborhood.” Lewis-Allen decided to fill vacant spaces by designing buildings—by becoming an architect. But it was his awareness of the challenges facing a budding African-American architect from inner-city neighborhoods like his own Brownsville, Brooklyn, that led him to his biggest “building” project: Made in Brownsville (MiB). It’s a creative agency where young people learn marketable skills in the digital-design world. In the process, they show the world and themselves that high-end creativity is alive and well in an inner-city neighborhood. Lewis-Allen says that the hurdles he had to face in becoming an architect weren’t huge—more in the nature of “inconvenient ignorances.” Not knowing how to convert his on-paper design work to slides, for example, led to “several incomplete undergraduate applications.” He eventually was accepted into SUNY–Buffalo, and went on to the Harvard Graduate School of Design. “But if I had met even one designer earlier in my life, I wouldn’t have had that portfolio problem,” he says. It was the only senior Black architect he knew who persuaded him to apply to Harvard, “because as a person of

THIS PAGE: Activities at Made in Brownsville, a creative agency in Brooklyn, New York’s Brownsville neighborhood. Here, young people learn marketable skills in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) and place-based community revitalization. OPPOSITE: Quardean Lewis-Allen, founder and CEO of Made in Brownsville.



Architect Joseph Kunkel, a Northern Cheyenne tribal member, wanted to make a difference for Native people. He knew all about their struggles for decent housing—the overcrowding, the lack of basic amenities. But then, in 2013, four years out of grad school and having worked on education-related building projects in Canada and Bolivia, he embarked on a HUD-funded project to study the best examples of affordable-housing design by tribal housing authorities around the U.S.—and he was, as he puts it, “lifted up.” “I realized that, if they’re given the opportunity, tribes have the self-determination to do this work,” he says. “We have the capacity, we have the intuition, and we will build.” He found innovative tribal housing projects to admire, including the Puyallup Longhouse/Place of Hidden Waters in Tacoma, Washington, a LEED-certified development inspired by the traditional Salish longhouse, which was garnering praise in the mainstream architectural press. And that, in a sense, defines Kunkel’s double mission as a designer and the executive director of SNC Design Lab (formerly Sustainable Native Communities Collaborative, or SNCC) in Santa Fe, New Mexico: to design and build structures that are comfortable, beautiful, and culturally appropriate for Native people, while also showing the non-Native world just how compelling contemporary design from an Indigenous perspective can be. The HUD research project was carried on while Kunkel held an Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship, the focus of which was to design housing in cooperation with the Santo Domingo Tribal Housing Authority in New Mexico. Kunkel worked out a plan for 41 two-story units that echoed the style of traditional Pueblo dwellings, and which offered ample communal space for community gatherings. “And we created 41 art studios,” he notes, “because 75 percent of the residents in Santo Domingo make their primary living from art.” Kunkel did careful pre-design work, the most important element of which was listening, a strong cultural value in Indian country. “But historically, Native communities haven’t been listened to,” he says. “And architectural education itself has come from a place of privilege. The architect develops a body of knowledge and becomes this supposedly all-knowing person. I’ve flipped that on its head by saying that communities are the architects of their own destiny.” Kunkel first connected with SNCC during his fellowship, and now, as its director since 2017, he oversees its role of, as the organization’s website puts it, “synthesizing and disseminating best practices of native design

LEFT: Photo by G Marks Photo. TOP: Photo by AOS Architects. OPPOSITE PAGE: Photo by Noah Webb.


through research, case studies, tools and resources for tribal developers.” For Kunkel, a 2019 Obama Fellow, this boils down to a few questions: “How do we start to reframe what architecture can do? Instead of dominating and repressing a community, how can it respond to the culture of those people? How can it heal?” JEN KRAVA is director of programming and

new initiatives at Forecast. JON SPAYDE is

senior editor of Public Art Review.

ABOVE: While he was an Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow, Joseph Kunkel helped create a plan for Wa-Di Housing in New Mexico. It includes 41 two-story units and 41 artist studios. In the background is the Rail Runner, which connects Santa Fe and Albuquerque, with a stop at Santo Domingo, a.k.a. Kewa Pueblo. RIGHT: Artist Robert Tenorio lives and works at Santo Domingo. OPPOSITE: Today, Joseph Kunkel is the executive director of SNC Design Lab, which is focused on closing the housing gap in Indian country as a program of MASS Design Group’s global, nonprofit design platform. He’s also a 2019 Obama Fellow.

In Minnesota—the land of 10,000 lakes—artist-activists dive into water’s critical role in health, healing, equity, and historical reckoning. BY LISA MARIE BRIMMER EVERY DAY, ARTISTS AND ACTIVISTS ARE SHINING A LIGHT on critical water justice issues we face on local and global levels. They’re calling attention not only to the environment, but also to the ways water separates us socially and culturally. Because water justice isn’t just about fighting contamination and getting politicians to address climate change; it’s about equal access and safety, too. Water is central to the identity of Minnesota, home to Anishinaabe and Dakota people; “Minnesota” is derived from the Dakota name MniSota Makoce, which means “the place where the water reflects the clouds.” With 11,842 lakes, 6,564 natural rivers and streams, and 10.6 million acres of steadily decreasing wetlands, the state is also home to one of the country’s most engaged communities of artists, builders, and organizers. In the next several pages we look at how several artist-activists in Minnesota explore water and employ a wide and shifting range of media, approaches, and tactics to address global challenges and carry forward cultural work aimed at right relationship.

The Water Bar, conceived and built by Shanai Matteson and Colin Kloecker, has been offering water tastings—and building water networks —since 2014. The storefront Water Bar in Minneapolis will close in 2020, but its work—including pop-up tastings—will continue. Photo by Russ White, courtesy Shanai Matteson.






Shanai Matteson is an artist and cultural organizer born and raised in Northern Minnesota near the headwaters of the Mississippi River. She is collaborative director of the Water Bar & Public Studio. Her current project Overburden/Overlook, with Macalester College sociologist Roopali Phadke, delves into the environmental and social risks associated with mining. The project involves pop-up art-making workshops for women on Minnesota’s Iron Range in which they’re encouraged to share stories about their lives, their work, and their relationships to water. It also focuses on relationship and network building and features a mobile “overlook” where people can share stories. Many stories will become part of a traveling exhibition. It’s a complex, multi-year project that also naturally raises conversations about issues like the effects of deforestation, the displacement of Indigenous people, racism, and pollution. The project will culminate with a public art tour and literary work in 2020–2021. The ultimate goal of the project is to “demonstrate the ways that women and women’s leadership can transform conflict, build powerful coalitions, and heal relationships that have been broken by economic exploitation and political division.”

ABOVE: Shanai Matteson. TOP TWO ROWS: These images are from Overburden/Overlook’s art-making and stortelling workshops. In the project’s Felt Here workshops, women tell stories while creating replicas of taconite pellets out of felt stained brown with overburden from mining sites, then turn the pellets into jewelry. The flags created in workshops include symbols like wild rice and white pine; they are used ceremonially to mark sacred water places, like the sites of the proposed Enbridge oil pipeline, which would cross the Mississippi River twice in Minnesota.

TOP TWO ROWS: Photos courtesy Shanai Matteson. BOTTOM: Photo by Mike Russert, courtesy Shanai Matteson.

Mining and Women’s Lives

Name Restoration TOP: Zaníyaŋ Yutȟókča: Brave Change is a gathering space to honor the Dakota people who inhabited the shores of Bde Maka Ska, now inside the City of Minneapolis, in the 1830s. The fence was designed by Sandy Spieler. BOTTOM: Angela Two Stars stamped the image of animals and their Dakota names into sidewalk squares at the gathering place, the site where the oral Dakota language was first translated into written script.

You can see Mona Smith’s films at To learn about more about indigenous place names across the country, search @indigenousgeotags.


Take a quick look at the history of a public place—specifically how its Indigenous name changed to one given by European immigrants—and you’ll get an instant picture of Native dispossession. In Minneapolis, for example, Bde Maka Ska, a Dakota name meaning White Earth Lake, was changed about 200 years ago to Lake Calhoun, after U.S. Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, author of the Indian Removal Act. It was a significant moment in 2018 when the city officially changed the name of the lake back to Bde Maka Ska. Then in 2019, the City of Minneapolis Art in Public Places program opened a public gathering space along the lakeshore, called Zaníyaŋ Yutȟókča: Brave Change. It honors Dakota leader Maḣpiya Wicaṡṭa (Cloud Man) and the community Ḣeyata Ọtuŋwe (Village to the side) who inhabited this place in the 1830s. Several artists were involved in creating Zaníyaŋ Yutȟókča. Angela Two Stars (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate) produced pathway stamps of animals paired with their Dakota names in sidewalk squares. Sandy Spieler revealed some of the food grown on this site in the fence she designed. Mona Smith (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate) offered deeper dives into history and Dakota culture and language through her films for the project.

TOP: Photo by Bruce Silcox. BOTTOM: Photos courtesy City of Minneapolis.



The Subversive Sirens are an award-winning synchronized-swimming team that’s making space for a browner, queerer, and more body-positive presence within the aquatic arts. The group has garnered gold at the 2018 Gay Games in Paris and competed at World Pride’s 2019 International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics tourney in New York City. Beyond taking home trophies, the Sirens have also developed “splash-mobs.” These pop-up community swims often take place in the shallow end of the pool or beside it, as newcomers learn and practice basic floating and swimming techniques. It’s not just about survival in the water, the Sirens insist, it’s also about aquatic joy and pleasure.

Minneapolis’s Phillips Aquatic Center is the practice hole for the Sirens. Although it isn’t Olympic sized, the community pool supports the swimmers by providing access to clean and clear water in which they can swim and be seen. This visibility is significant. “We are still so new in our acceptance of trans and gender non-conforming identities,” says Siren Jae Hyun Shim, who is non-binary. Safety is important for gender non-conforming representation in aquatic arts, too. “Locker rooms, historically, [are] unwelcoming places” for gay, trans, and gender non-conforming kids, says Shim. So safe locker rooms—where team members can bond—are essential.

RIGHT: Zoe Hollomon, Tana Hargest, Nicki McCracken, and Suzy Messerole of the Subversive Sirens perform a synchonized swimming routine. ABOVE RIGHT: The Subversive Sirens, from left to right, include Jae Hyun Shim, Serita Colette, Signe Harriday, Zoe Hollomon, Tana Hargest, Suzy Messerole, and Nicki McCracken.

TOP: Photo by Mike Levad. BOTTOM: Photo by Rhea Pappas.


Overlooked Histories


Tia-Simone Gardner, who lives in Minneapolis, is working on a series of site-specific installations that explore the American Black diaspora’s overlooked histories through examining waterways, colonialism, migration, and trade. She encourages deep reflection about land and water. As she recently said about relationships between the Mississippi and the Rio Grande: “These sites of power tell tales of militarized contact zones between settler colonizers and Indigenous land, of commodified bodies and enslavement.” Following is a sampling of her recent work. Reading the River: Yemaya and Oshun is an experimental documentary looking at the relationship between Blackness

and six sites along the Mississippi River: New Orleans, Natchez, Vicksburg, Memphis, St. Louis, Cairo, and St. Paul. Salt Water, Sweet Water is a floating camera obscura project that includes a 208-square-foot live-work structure. It considers the relationship between large cities and small housing spaces—particularly temporary ones. Installed temporarily in Houston’s Buffalo Bayou in 2019, it will be launched in the Mississippi River in Minneapolis in 2020. Working with photography, Gardner superimposed images of shipwrecked Clotilda, recently discovered in Alabama, onto images of water in New Orleans. The Clotilda was the last ship to carry enslaved people from Africa to the U.S.


Photos courtesy Tia-Simone Gardner.

ABOVE: Gardner’s Salt Water, Sweet Water, a floating camera obscura project, pictured here on Houston’s Buffalo Bayou. BELOW: After the Clotilda was discovered in 2019, Gardner superimposed images of the slave ship onto still images from body camera videos she made in New Orleans.

LEFT AND TOP RIGHT: Photos by Graci Horne. MIDDLE RIGHT: Image by Graci Horne. BOTTOM RIGHT: Photo by Wakan Wahohipi Win Zephier.



ABOVE: A woman at the 2018 Dakota Prayer Ride Water Walk & Run. For about two weeks every December, participants start from Sisseton, South Dakota, and end in Mankato, Minnesota. They’re encouraged to bring vials of water from their territories for healing prayers. TOP RIGHT: In Graci Horne’s kinship flag making workshops, participants are encouraged to think about their connection to the land and water through the lens of their family histories. MIDDLE RIGHT: This image is part of a series Horne projected in 2017 at the Twin Cities’s annual Northern Spark arts festival. BOTTOM RIGHT: Horne taking photos while on the Dakota Prayer Ride Water Walk & Run in 2018.

Intergenerational Healing Graci Horne is a visual artist, curator, poet, educator, and healer who emphasizes the sacredness of water, legacy, and intergenerational healing. She leads kinship flag making workshops in which participants are encouraged to think about their connection to land and water through their family histories. She’s projected her artwork—primarily mixed media and watercolor—at the Northern Spark festival. She’s currently in negotiations for her first mural project. During the recent Hearts of Our People exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Art—a groundbreaking showcase of art by Native women—Horne led a workshop in which younger Indigenous people had a chance to talk with elders

about the long history of Native women and art. Horne is the descendent of one of 38 Dakota men executed in Mankato, Minnesota, on December 26, 1862, in the aftermath of the Dakota War. To honor them, and the families left behind, she rides horseback during the annual Dakota Prayer Ride Water Walk & Run, which also honors water and missing and murdered Indigenous women. Horne says she found her voice in 2016 when she joined protestors mobilized against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock. There she and Rebecca Nagle ran a healing tent and worked on Monument Quilt, which addresses sexual violence, an experience all too common for Native women.

Black Women’s Health In 2015, she gathered people on a riverboat, which cruised the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, to share stories of African and African American river life. Kubat has been reclaiming her indigenous African roots. “In doing so I am strengthening my relationship to all living things and the planet we all need healthy to sustain us,” she says. Kubat has also been leading workshops on water and on climate change preparation at the Water Bar in Minneapolis.

LISA MARIE BRIMMER is a writer and facilitator living in so-called

Minneapolis. They are co-editor of Queer Voices: Poetry, Prose, and Pride (2019) and an educator at Century College. Their work has been published in Open Rivers Magazine.

Photo by David Pierini.

Water quality and water access are primary concerns for Amoke Kubat as she hopes to mend rampant health disparities between White women and Black and Indigenous women. Kubat has studied the relationship between dehydration and the onset of many diseases that plague Black women, including high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, and more. Increasing water intake may decrease or reverse these diseases, says Kubat, who designed a “mothering” artistic practice called YO MAMA!, which includes an art-based support group called The Art of Mothering Workshops. This summer, Kubat and her YO MAMA! peers discussed their connection to water through motherhood at a Minnesota Public Radio event called The Water Main. Kubat leads many community conversations around water.

RIGHT: Photo by Zoe Prinds-Flash. BOTTOM: Photo by David Pierini.


RIGHT: Amoke Kubat by the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. LEFT: Kubat leads a workshop about water using the Water Magic Fortune Teller, which was designed by the Minneapolis Health Department and the Water Bar for a campaign called ReThink Your Drink, Every Sip Counts! The campaign, which emphasizes the safety of Minneapolis water, is an initiative of the Health Department, Minneapolis Water Works, the University of Minnesota, Water Bar, and other partners. BELOW: A closeup of the board. Colin Kloecker of the Water Bar is currently designing a custom board for Kubat to use in her own workshops.


Photo courtesy eL Seed Studio.




The International Award for Public Art is more than a prize —it’s a chance to gauge what’s powerful in the field, from one end of the globe to the other.


Spread across 50 buildings of the Manshiyat Nasr ward in Cairo, eL Seed’s Perception is the winner of the 2019 International Award for Public Art. Turn the page to see how the artwork comes together as a whole.

THE INTERNATIONAL AWARD FOR PUBLIC ART (IAPA) was established in 2011 by Public Art Review and Public Art magazine (China) to look for the most powerful and effective examples of public art worldwide and to let the media, developers, public officials, and other decision makers know about them. The founders also hoped to spark debate about what constitutes good public art, garnering examples from many cultures and artistic approaches, and underlining the cultural, political, economic, social, and other complexities in which public art is rooted. Now overseen by the Institute for Public Art, an independent, international network initiated by Shanghai University’s Centre for Public Art, the award has been given every other year since 2011. The winner of the 2019 award, selected by a panel of international judges, is Perception, a neighborhood-scale mural by eL Seed in Cairo, Egypt. It was one of seven commended projects, from seven regions of the world, nominated by a global team of researchers as well as founding partners Public Art Review and Public Art magazine. The award also recognizes 28 shortlisted projects. Each of these projects represents public work at the highest level, based on concepts—including community engagement, cultural responsiveness, historical memory, innovative forms of collaboration, and environmental concern—that define the field in the twenty-first century and beyond.

AWARD WINNER Perception eL Seed, 2016


“Anyone who wants to see the sunlight clearly needs to wipe his eye first.” That’s the message of this enormous anamorphic mural, fully legible from only one point on Mokattam Mountain in Cairo. The Arabic calligraffiti, spread over nearly 50 buildings, spells out the words of the third-century Coptic bishop Saint Athanasius of Alexandria. It’s the work of a team led by French-Tunisian street artist eL Seed in the Manshiyat Nasr ward in the city. The neighborhood, at the foot of the mountain, is home to the Zaraeeb, a community of Coptic Christians who serve as the city’s garbage collectors and recyclers. The Zaraeeb can be doubly “invisible” in a modern majority-Muslim city. Not only are they a religious minority, but they handle the tainted discards of the community. The term that many Cairenes use to refer to members of the community, Zabaleen (“garbage people”), is one vivid indication of their marginalization. The term they use for themselves, Zaraeeb, means “pig breeders.” For decades they’ve been collecting the garbage of the people of Cairo and feeding the organic waste to pigs and other animals. This self-sufficient and profitable recycling system is one of the most efficient in the world: the Zaraeeb recycle up to 85 percent of what they collect. Executing Perception required assembling a team of artists from France, North Africa, the Middle East, and the United States, a year of planning and logistics organization, and three weeks of intense work on-site. Some local residents worked with the team, and, of course, the owners of the buildings involved had to give their consent. The spot on Mokattam Mountain where the work “comes together” is a sacred place: a Coptic church in a cave, which can accommodate 20,000 people. In a 2016 TED Talk, the artist noted that his project was “not about beautifying a place by bringing art to it,” but about “switching perception and opening a dialogue” with a little-known community. A key purpose of the piece, eL Seed noted elsewhere, is to question “the level of judgment and misconception society can unconsciously have upon a community based on their differences.”



White Cube

Michael Uwemedimo, 2018

Renzo Martens, 2017

Nearly half a million residents of Port Harcourt, Nigeria’s oil hub, live in self-built informal settlements along the city’s waterfront, lacking basic services and political representation. The Human City Project, headquartered in a “Media Shed,” aims to give waterfront dwellers voices by helping them learn media skills. The shed acts as a community center too, connecting grassroots networks and global campaign platforms, bringing together gang members and government representatives, sanitation engineers and market traders, established artists and aspiring rappers, philanthropic donors and community activists.

It’s a hypermodern art space—but it stands on a former palm oil plantation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It’s part of Dutch artist Martens’s cooperative venture with the Lusanga International Research Centre on Art and Economic Inequality, in the nearby city of Lusanga, and the Congolese Plantation Workers Art League. International artists exhibit in the cube, along with members of the Art League, whose sculptures in chocolate (cacao is a major Congolese export) sell internationally and produce revenue for the artists. The project is meant to both benefit plantation workers and call attention to the inequities of the international art world, in which places like the DRC are routinely ignored.

OPPOSITE: Photo courtesy eL Seed Studio.


Perception, eL Seed’s massive Arabic calligraffiti mural in Cairo, is visible as a whole from only one place: a Coptic church in a cave on Mokottam Mountain. The artwork was intended to open a dialogue about the Zaraeeb, a little-known community of Coptic Christians who are master recyclers.


I Am Because We Are

Mehdi Ben Cheikh, 2014—

Ricky Lee Gordon, 2013

Paris-based gallerist Ben Cheikh invited prominent street artists from 30 countries to the village of Erriadh on the Tunisian island of Djerba, and by creating 250 artworks on village walls, they have turned Erriadh into one of the premier street-art showcases in the world. It’s a way to both celebrate Tunisia as the launching ground of the Arab Spring in 2010, and increase Erriadh’s profile in order to boost economically crucial tourism, which declined during subsequent social unrest in the country.

South African street artist Gordon’s 130-foot-tall image of Nelson Mandela in a boxing stance adorns a building in the Maboneng district near Johannesburg and stands for the interest the first Black president of the country took in boxing, not for its violence, but for its egalitarian quality—“In the ring, rank, age, color, and wealth are irrelevant,” he once said—and the strategic science needed to win. The artist hopes that the image, whose title translates Mandela’s key social concept, Ubuntu, will inspire residents of the hardscrabble neighborhood, which is undergoing renewal.





barrangal dyara (skin and bones) Jonathan Jones, 2016 The Garden Palace in Sydney, Australia, was built for the 1879 Sydney International Exhibition. Sited in the five-acre Royal Botanic Garden, it eventually became a government office and museum housing thousands of priceless objects of Aboriginal culture—and remains of Aboriginal human beings as well. In 1882, it burned to the ground, and this precious part of the country’s heritage was lost forever. Here Jonathan Jones, who is of Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi heritage, installed barrangal dyara to “commence a healing process.” The title paid homage to those lost bodies and pointed to a “starved” Australian history that excludes the Aboriginal presence. The installation commemorated the Garden Palace in a way that foregrounded Aboriginal culture past and present while underlining a colonialist mind-set that denigrated that culture even as it preserved elements of it as examples of the “primitive.” Barrangal dyara had three components. First, 15,000 replicas of Aboriginal shields, made of gypsum, were placed on the ground in a tight but random-appearing pattern that traced the perimeter of the vanished Palace. The uniformity and whiteness of the shields suggested the loss of tribal and cultural identity under colonialism and all the other losses that Australia’s original inhabitants have suffered: land, language, culture, rights, and their rightful place in history. (The term the first White explorers of the continent used to describe it—terra nullius—means “land of no one,” and nullifies the millions of humans who have lived on the land for something like 60,000 years.) The second element was a meadow of native kangaroo grass, which once grew everywhere in the Sydney region, and which Jones planted not only as a symbol of the rebirth of the Aboriginal spirit, but also as a reminder that, despite the pervasive belief that native Australians were all “primitive” hunter-gatherers, there is increasing evidence that they were agriculturalists and land managers of great skill: kangaroo grass, or “native millet,” was the first cultivated grain and was ground into flour for the first bread ever baked. The third component, a soundscape, presented visitors with the living sounds of young people speaking eight Aboriginal languages at eight different sites. It was a testimony to another face of renewal, since in the not-so-distant past Aboriginal children were punished (and their elders were jailed) for speaking their mother tongues.

A Journey of a Million Miles Begins with One Step—The Story of Beyond Refuge Tiffany Singh, in partnership with the Auckland Resettled Community Coalition (ARCC), 2017 On the island of Waiheke, near Auckland, social-practice artist Singh turned four formerly derelict small boats, upended and decorated with colorful saris and blankets, into sounding chambers for the recorded stories of migrants to New Zealand. As visitors rested in their shade, they learned about the horrors and triumphs of the global migrant journey.

The Lighthouse: Tū Whenua-a-Kura Michael Parekowhai, 2017 Parekowhai created a near-exact replica of a New Zealand “state house,” typically built as part of a public housing development. But he added elements that comment in complex ways on the Māori and European heritages of the islands—including neon re-creations of Southern Hemisphere constellations inside that reflect off a glossy statue of explorer/colonizer Captain James Cook, depicted in a moment of pensiveness or regret. And he placed the house on a wharf in Auckland harbor, where it acts as a symbolic lighthouse, indicating a “safe harbor” for today’s migrants.

OPPOSITE: Photo by Peter Greig, courtesy Kaldor Public Art Projects.


In Sydney, Australia’s Garden Palace, Jonathan Jones’s installation barrangal dyara called attention to lost Aboriginal history with 15,000 white replicas of Aboriginal shields, a meadow of native kangaroo grass in the center, and a soundscape of youth speaking eight Aboriginal languages.

I Eat You Eat Me

Transi(en)t Manila

Mella Jaarsma, 2012

Fourteen artists from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, and the U.S., 2012

This interactive performance, which has traveled to many sites around the world, including Indonesia, begins when two people are invited to sit close to each other and don leather bibs attached to a mobile tabletop. They then choose food for each other, and feed each other, gaining an opportunity to, in the artist’s words, “get into the skin” of one another—at least symbolically.

The artists spent a two-week residency in the struggling Escolta neighborhood in Manila, creating site-specific artworks at various locations—works that were sophisticated, earthy, colorful, and enjoyable at many levels. The result was a celebration of the local by artists both native to the place and born farther away—an effort to avoid both the parochialism of pure localism and the gloss, placelessness, and gentrification-threat of globalism.

COMMENDED PROJECT Wind Telephone Itaru Sasaki, 2011


When garden designer Sasaki lost his beloved cousin in 2010, he came up with a unique way to deal with his grief: telephone calls to the departed. He decided to build a white British-style telephone booth in his hilltop garden. In it he placed a battered old Bakelite rotary phone, unconnected to any earthly telecom system, to keep in touch with his cousin’s memory by talking with him regularly. “Because my thoughts couldn’t be relayed over a regular phone line,” he told the Japanese public broadcasting network NHK, “I wanted them to be carried on the wind.” Sasaki’s home, and the Wind Telephone, are on the outskirts of Ōtsuchi, a small coastal city in northern Japan’s Tōhoku region. On March 11, 2011, while Sasaki was putting the finishing touches on his project, a magnitude 9.1 earthquake in the ocean off the Tōhoku coast triggered gigantic tsunamis. Ōtsuchi was devastated by 30-foot waves; a tenth of its 16,000 inhabitants were confirmed dead or never accounted for. The Wind Telephone, created to ease one man’s grief, became a place of solace for thousands as word of its existence, and its purpose, spread via local media. “It is believed,” says the Atlas Obscura website, “that 10,000 visitors journeyed to this hilltop outside Ōtsuchi within three years of the disaster.” Survivors of the tsunami have been joined in this pilgrimage by people who’ve lost loved ones in other ways, including suicide and accidents. In 2016, the radio program This American Life produced a podcast that included recordings of some of the conversations on the Wind Telephone. “There’s laughter,” writes Sherilyn Siy on the website Tokyo Creative. “There are sniffles of tears being held back. Through the most ordinary of conversations, the powerful undercurrents of emotions are clearly discernible: the regret, pain of loss, despair, guilt, frustration, search for strength, hope, and the will to carry on without the loved one.”


SHORTLISTED PROJECTS The Microclimatic Life-Line

Plants Living in Shanghai

Annechien Meier and Gert-Jan Gerlach, Laboratory for Microclimates, 2017

Zheng Bo, assisted by curator Liu Xiao, 2013

The eleven connected rafts that make up this installation were crafted by the artists under the guidance of traditional bamboo workers in Taiwan, and installed in the Chen Long Wetlands, which were created when a massive typhoon struck Taiwan’s west coast in 1987. Made of local, natural, biodegradable, and recycled materials, the Life-Line suggests the line traced by a heartbeat monitor, and stands for the changes in consumption habits necessary if we’re to meet the global challenges of climate change.

The long-abandoned Shanghai Cement Factory, overgrown with wild plants, became a focus of research as Zheng and Liu preserved, studied, and lectured about this “found botanical garden.” They probed the histories, visual representation, and significance of the plants in China’s modernization and their relationship with the growth and transformation of Shanghai. Zheng also worked with local scholars specializing in ecology, literature, Chinese medicine, and architecture to develop an eight-week online course on the past and present of Shanghai as seen through plants.

OPPOSITE: Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images.


In 2010, Japanese garden designer Itaru Sasaki—who lives outside the coastal city of Ōtsuchi—built a telephone booth in his garden. It contained an unconnected rotary phone on which he could talk with his late, beloved cousin. After the 2011 tsunami hit Ōtsuchi and a tenth of its population was killed, the Wind Telephone became a place of solace for thousands of visitors.

Traveling Around Taipei with Garbage Trucks

Sora-Ami: Knitting the Sky—Shimameguri

Prototype Paradise, 2015

Yasuaki Igarashi, 2016

Prototype Paradise, a Taiwan-based performance group committed to unconventional venues and the reinvention of theater as a place for informal encounters, teamed up with sanitation workers in Taiwan’s capital to convert garbage trucks into colorful carnival floats, transform trash into dolls and puppets, and perform street theater along garbage routes. And in the “BusStory” segment, people were invited on board a bus where, in exchange for their presenting a single piece of trash that “represents Taipei,” they got a trash collector’s view of the city and heard stories of sanitation workers’ lives told by a tour guide.

This is the 2016 version of a work that Igarashi has created in multiple locations in Japan, and once in New Zealand. In collaboration with residents of five islands in Japan’s Inland Sea whose ways of life have been altered by modern development, the artist wove multicolored fishing nets—one color for each of the five islands—and then displayed them on a beach site, where they acted as colorful scrim through which to observe and contemplate the complex relationships between the sea and the land, traditional livelihoods and the modern landscape.

COMMENDED PROJECT Hotel Empire: The New York Crossing Laurent Boijeot and Sébastien Renauld, 2015


Manhattanites are great walkers, used to traversing large swaths of the island on foot. But few of them have trekked as far as a pair of French artists who were determined to meet the city quite literally from the ground up. Walking along Broadway, Boijeot and Renauld traversed half of Manhattan, from 125th Street down to the Battery at the bottom of the island and across the water from the Statue of Liberty. But it was how they made the trip that turned the journey into a work of durational performance art—and, more importantly, an occasion for human connection. The pair went very slowly, covering only about five blocks a day, so the trip took them a full month. They brought along a set of bedding and collapsible chairs along with suitcases, and lived and slept out on the streets. During the day, they configured their portable furniture to create public seating, and then made coffee and invited passersby to stop, chat, play a game of chess, or share a meal. At nightfall, they reconfigured the seating into beds—not just for themselves, but for anyone else who needed one. They showered and bathed in the apartments of acquaintances they made along the way. Thus their stop-and-start journey through a city famous for its alienation effects became an occasion for conversation, connection, and the exchange of much-needed help. Not that the process went smoothly: the artists had to deal with the police on a near-daily basis, “which seems to be in large part one of the points of the project,” wrote Michelle Young in an account of the project on the UntappedCities website. After they spent a night on the sidewalk at Broadway and 99th Street, for example, they told Young that “[the police] woke us up at seven. We had a proper talk about U.S. public space regulation in our underwear. Standard sidewalk procedure.’”



Soul Food Pavilion

Naomi Natale, 2008–2013

Theaster Gates, 2012

To call attention to genocidal violence in Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Burma, and elsewhere, Natale worked with artists around the world to craft one million replicas of human bones. Then, in 2013, the bones were arranged in a dense pattern along the entire length of the National Mall in Washington, D.C.—an overwhelming, nearly inescapable icon of inhumanity, and a call to action.

By situating five “ritual dinners” of soul food in a struggling majorityBlack Chicago neighborhood, and inviting artists, activists, art patrons, musicians, poets, and the public to feast together, Gates commemorated the role of food in holding the AfricanAmerican community together and sparked conversations about race, privilege, and what nourishes communities. “The dinners,” he said, “[gave] me a way to leverage ritual, to ask hard questions in ways that people don’t normally talk about in Chicago, with groups of people who don’t normally get together.”

OPPOSITE: Photo by Clément Martin.


Laurent Boijeot and Sébastien Renauld spent a month traveling along the length of Manhattan with portable furniture for Hotel Empire: The New York Crossing. They moved five blocks per day, creating public seating during the day and beds for themselves, and those in need, at night.

Storefront Theatre

Rolling Rez Arts

Matthew Mazzotta, 2016

Bryan Parker, 2015–

When Mazzotta came to Lyons, Nebraska, set up carpeting and furniture on the town’s main street, and invited townspeople to join him in “outdoor living room” discussions about what the 850-person town needed, many told him they wanted to see its failing downtown revive. He heard about a storefront that was only a façade—it had no building behind it—and he used hydraulics to turn that façade into a theater: the storefront pivots downward and transforms into a bank of seats. Films and concerts have been held in this unique outdoor venue, and Lyons now has a downtown attraction that’s been drawing audiences from all over.

A big truck adorned with stylized buffalo in bright colors crisscrosses the Connecticut-size Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, connecting Native artists with one another while helping them ratchet up their artistic and financial skills. The vehicle can be configured as a classroom, an exhibition space, or a computer lab, for art business building and for financial literacy classes. It also brings buyers to artists’ homes on the reservation.



In their performance piece Hotel Empire: The New York Crossing, Laurent Boijeot and Sébastien Renauld moved portable furniture and bedding—here set up in Times Square—about five blocks every day.

Photo by ClĂŠment Martin.

COMMENDED PROJECT Mera Karachi Mobile Cinema The Tentative Collective, 2011–2015


For years Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan and the country’s cultural, financial, and industrial capital, has also had a reputation as one of the country’s most dangerous cities, rife with crime. This led to the walling-off of many enclaves for protection, and a fragmentation of Karachi’s social fabric. Yaminay Nasir Chaudhri decided to respond imaginatively to the fragmentation. Having earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Cornell University and an MFA in film from SUNY–Albany, she garnered support from the Artspire program of the New York Foundation for the Arts and the United States Institute of Peace. This, plus support from the National University Singapore, several individuals in Karachi, and crowdfunding, allowed her to set up a unique cinema program, centered on a rickshaw. The rickshaw, which is decorated in gaudy colors and fitted out with a projector, travels around the city showing films in the open air—but not Hollywood blockbusters, Bollywood musicals, or “Lollywood” movies (produced in Lahore, Pakistan’s second-largest city and film capital). The movies that Mera Karachi Mobile Cinema shows were made by people in the neighborhoods. Chaudhri and her collaborators—the Tentative Collective—worked with local people to help them create mobile-phone video documentaries about their lives and concerns; the rickshaw projected them onto walls, railway cars, even ships in the city’s port district. The goal, the group wrote, was to “temporarily [disrupt] the hierarchies of everyday socio-spatial relations by making visible the multiplicity of urban experiences and transgressing boundaries between public and private life.”




Hanif Kureshi, Giulia Ambrogi, Akshat Nauriyal, Arjun Bahl, and Thanish Thomas, 2014 (ongoing)

Pawel Althamer and The Neighbours, 2017

This project encompasses seven Indian cities, with the goal of creating safe spaces and brighter environments through street art. Representing a first-of-its-kind engagement between street artists and local governments, the project includes murals, postering, rice-pasting, yarn-bombing and more, and works range in size from “blink-and-you-miss-it” to the largest murals in India. In many cases residents have had a say in the style and content of the works, and many works carry messages supporting the rights of women, LGBTQ people, the poor, and prisoners.

In the Samdani Sculpture Park in Sylhet, Bangladesh, Polish artist Althamer teamed up with local people—including children and residents of a nearby drug rehab—to create this gigantic reclining female figure, made of a bamboo frame covered with cloth. Named by the residents for a prominent Bengali educator and advocate of women’s rights, Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain (1880–1932), the sculpture is a “big tent” housing a kiln and a space for workshops, exhibitions, and other community activities.

OPPOSITE: Photo courtesy Tentative Collective.


The projector used for Yaminay Nasir Chaudhri and the Tentative Collective’s Mera Karachi Mobile Cinema travels throughout Karachi on a rickshaw. It’s used to show mobile-phone video documentaries made by people in Karachi on open-air walls throughout the city.

Chitpur Local

Walled Off Hotel Apology Tea Party

Hamdasti, 2014–2018

Banksy, 2017

The Kolkata-based arts group Hamdasti’s four-year project focused on the city’s diverse Chitpur Road neighborhood, at one end of which stands the stately family compound of celebrated Indian poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, while the other end is a low-income community. The artists engaged local people to revive the district’s fading traditions, which include printmaking, publishing, jewelry making, the jatra folk theater, traditional addas or public conversations, and much more.

The elusive British artist, a proponent of the Palestinian cause, set up this parody tea party, complete with tattered Union Jacks and party hats riddled with “bullet holes,” outside his Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem on the Israeli-occupied West Bank. (The Hotel, which is located next to a section of a concrete wall erected by Israeli security authorities, began as a temporary installation but has turned into a functioning hotelcum-art-gallery.) The point of the party was to apologize for the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which threw British support behind the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine—without consulting the Palestinians.





Biodiversity Tower Angelo Vermeulen, 2015 Willebroek Park, in the Belgian town of Willebroek near Antwerp, was the site of a Nazi concentration camp during World War II—a camp that has been carefully restored as a warning about the depths to which organized inhumanity can sink. But since 2015, the park has also been the site of a profoundly life-affirming work of public art focusing particularly on nonhuman life. Biodiversity Tower, created by artist-biologist-activist Angelo Vermeulen in partnership with the Willebroek municipality and a local composters group, demonstrates biological processes without a single electronic element. Inside a metal framework traversed by steps, designed in cooperation with architect Kris Mys, there are terraces, a wind turbine and a water pump, a drip irrigation system, a plethora of plants, and “insect hotel” elements, including plant materials that bugs feed on. A bright red tube conveys the heat generated by composting biomass, delivered in trolleys at the bottom of the tower, upward into the greenery. At the same time, a wind turbine drives a pump that lifts water to a reservoir on top, and a system of bright blue tubes delivers it downward to the growing things. The tower is modular and designed for growth in more ways than one: additional structural elements can be added as plant and insect life expand. For Vermeulen, this self-sufficient biodiversity machine is also a symbol of human cooperation and learning. Major contributions to its concept, design, and execution were made by volunteers, including the Willebroek Master Composters organization. These local people were particularly important in selecting the edibles that would attract local insects to the “hotel.” Other volunteers designed and built the vertical-axis wind turbine from scratch. A circle of concrete seating elements surrounds the tower, and the stairsteps that spiral around it allow park visitors—and particularly kids—to get a closer look at the life cycles the artwork supports. The structure has become a favorite meeting place for people in the surrounding lower-income community, many of whom are immigrants. In this way, too, the Biodiversity Tower stands for life in a time of resurgent xenophobia all too reminiscent of the run-up to the years in which the nearby Willebroek camp was built.

Tomorrow, Today

Shapes of Water, Sounds of Hope

Somewhere (Nina Pope and Karen Guthrie), 2014

Suzanne Lacy, 2016

The artists, as part of a residency in the Archaeology Department of Cambridge University, created a unique landscape intervention near one of the university’s archaeological digs in a still-rural northwestern area of the city: a scale-model reproduction of the city’s plan for redevelopment of the area. Planned streets, houses, and other buildings were modeled in cob, a traditional building material made mostly of excavated earth, creating a haunting site that feels ancient and modern at once.

The small English town of Brierfield, Lancashire, once produced 85 percent of the world’s cotton goods. After World War II, Pakistani immigrants joined the native-born workers, but the subsequent decline of the weaving industry meant that Whites and Asians no longer worked together, and their communities grew apart. Lacy’s project brought them together in a series of monthly discussions and singing sessions, in which traditional English shape note singing—a Lancashire specialty—was blended with the mystical Islamic (Sufi) singing that Pakistanis love.

OPPOSITE: Photo by Margot Dieleman.


Biodiversity Tower in Willebroek, Belgium, is filled with life. Demonstrating biological processes, it has a wind turbine, water pump, drip irrigation system, plants, and an “insect hotel.” Located near a former Nazi concentration camp, its focus on diversity stands in contrast to resurgent xenophobia.

Champ Harmonique (Harmonic Field)

Free Speech Memorial

Pierre Sauvageot, 2011

Katarzyna Brońska, Mikołaj Iwańczuk, Michał Kempiński, 2014

Percussion instruments, sirens, bells, glockenspiels (some tuned to Middle Eastern and East Asian scales), resonating tubes, cellos, bamboo organs, and other musical devices—all activated by the wind. The colorful and resonant ensemble, created by artist and free-jazz veteran Sauvageot, traveled to open spaces throughout Europe, from the South of France to Austria, and from the Netherlands to the UK. The duration of the musical performance was unpredictable, depending on the intensity and direction of the wind.

Vital in the defeat of Communism in Poland was the country’s flourishing dissident press, which produced some 3,000 magazines and 7,000 books, despite repression. Warsaw’s Free Speech Memorial, created by veterans of that movement in cooperation with the post-Communist government, is a long black strip of metal and concrete meant to imitate a censor’s blacking-out of a line of text. It curves upward and ends in front of the building that once housed the official censorship office. At that point stands a transparent panel with a quote from the Roman historian Tacitus: “It is a rare fortune of these days that one may think what one likes and say what one thinks.”





Sumando Ausencias Doris Salcedo, 2016 On the morning of October 11, 2016, citizens of Bogotá, Colombia, completed an astonishing work of memory and mourning in the city’s Plaza Bolívar, the center of the national government: 2,300 names of people killed or disappeared in the country’s long civil war, which pitted government forces against leftist rebels, were written in ash on fabric panels. The panels were sewn together in a gigantic shroud: 23,000 square feet of cloth, completely covering the plaza. (The names represented only about 7 percent of the war’s victims.) Artist Salcedo, who conceived and directed the project in collaboration with the art museum of Colombia’s National University, and the ordinary Colombians who carried it out were mourning—but they were also protesting. Only a little more than a week earlier, on October 2, a public referendum to approve a peace agreement with the rebels—the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)—had been rejected by a one-half-of-one-percent margin, after four years of negotiation. A campaign by former president Álvaro Uribe had produced just enough “no” votes to postpone an end to the almost-60-year struggle. The majority of Colombians felt desperate, angry, and hopeless. A protest camp sprang up in the Plaza Bolívar. Salcedo, a sculptor and installation artist, put the word out that she wanted help in crafting a response to the vote. “Doris Salcedo invites us to draw the names of victims of the decades-long conflict on seven kilometers of cloth and then put them together with needle and thread,” read an email sent to everyone associated with the National University. Thousands of volunteers from all over Bogotá gathered in the plaza on the morning of October 6 to begin the project. Each sheet was reverently laid down on the ground and inscribed with a single name. Then all of the panels were sewn together. “Sumando Ausencias is a work of art in which the victims of the armed conflict are put in the center of Colombia’s political life by an ephemeral community formed during the making of the project,” Salcedo told the online magazine Art21. “These were generous weavers who were able to gather in one single image the pain of thousands of families. The work is an act of mourning.”


Collective White House

Eduardo Srur, 2014

Donald Russell, 2011

Srur’s life-size, hyper-realistic figures on blue diving boards appear to be ready to become ill by plunging into the maximally polluted Pinheiros River, which runs through Brazil’s largest city, São Paulo. The project, carried out in cooperation with the nonprofit Aguas Claras do Rio Pinheiro (Clear Waters of the Pinheiro River), accompanied an art exhibit on the theme of Brazil’s water-pollution crisis, which includes dam collapses, contamination of rivers by heavy metals, and government inaction.

Russell, director of the University of Illinois’s art-and-activismoriented Provisions Learning Project, worked with local people to erect a 1/5-scale model of the White House in the Plaza Botero in Medellín, Colombia. Made of used sheets from a budget motel in the city, the ephemeral structure was the center of a public event featuring music, street theater, and video, in which the public was invited to discuss the often-oppressive role of the U.S. in the world and the rich symbolism of a White House created by Latin American workers.

OPPOSITE: Photo by Oscar Monsalve, courtesy Alexander and Bonin, New York.


Mourners and protesters sewed together 2,300 sheets with the names of people killed or disappeared during Colombia’s civil war, for Doris Salcedo’s Sumando Ausencias. The gigantic shroud, which covered Bogotá, Colombia’s Plaza Bolívar, was completed on October 11, 2016.

Parque para Bricar e Pensar (Park for Jumping and Thinking)

Floating Attention Ala Plástica, La Dársena, El Levante and Taller Flotante, 2013–

Grupo Contrafilé, 2011 On a plot of land in a low-income São Paulo neighborhood on which houses had been torn down, the Contrafilé arts group co-created a playground/park for local children. Contrafilé, local residents, and a gallery of artists and organizations joined together to discuss what was wanted and how it could be created with a minimum of cost and a maximum of imagination. The result was a colorful, mind-expanding playland made up of cast-off materials.

The basin of the River Plate takes in parts of Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina, flowing through urban areas that are home to more than 20 million people, as well as vast rural areas. This huge project of nomadic actions, carried in by four art-activist organizations, tackles diverse, complex social and environmental issues all along the Plate basin through dialogue, research, and art practice, and then publishes the results in multiple forms.

Doris Salcedo’s Sumando Ausencias, roughly translated as “adding absences,” covered 23,000 square feet of the Plaza Bolívar in Bogotá.

PUBLIC ART REVIEW | VOL. 31| ISSUE 59 | FORECASTPUBLICART.ORG Photo by Oscar Monsalve, courtesy Alexander and Bonin, New York.


ON LOCATION Global Reports

“Pre-Enacting” the Future in Indianapolis A unique community performance helps the residents of an inner-city neighborhood resist gentrification with imagination


The words were weighty and Joanna Taft knew it. So she let silence hang in the air after speaking them during a TEDx Talk in February at Wabash College in the small Indiana town of Crawfordsville, some 50 miles from where she works as the executive director of the Harrison Center for the Arts in Indianapolis. For years, Taft has used the arts as a means of creative placemaking to build community and to help transform mostly poor, struggling urban neighborhoods into stable ones. Along the way, craft breweries, coffee shops, and chef-driven restaurants have opened. A charter school has put down roots, and pricey condos, apartments, and houses have been built. But at the same time, longtime residents, many of them Black and of limited means, have been made to feel unwelcome and even forced out of the neighborhoods they once called home.

Hence Taft’s confession—which probably isn’t all that revelatory for anyone working in community development in a time of skyrocketing housing costs and stagnant wages for the poorest Americans. But what is revelatory is what Taft is doing about it, even as economic forces threaten to gobble up yet another Indianapolis neighborhood—this one named Martindale-Brightwood. “As this conversation about gentrification has been happening across the country, we began to wonder if there was a way we could’ve done it better,” she says of her staff at the Harrison Center. “How could you revitalize a neighborhood without gentrifying it?” Their answer? PreEnactment Theater. For the third year in a row, seven blocks of a normally busy stretch of 16th Street in Martindale-Brightwood were shut down for a day in October for PreEnact Indy. Vacant lots and existing businesses were transformed into elaborate sets, and

Photos by Chuck Horn.




A Community in Flux The story of Martindale-Brightwood—also known as Kennedy-King or Hillside or Monon 16—is in many ways the story of Indianapolis. It’s a story of race and power, and of money and privilege. Of targeted investments and of public policies that have failed to treat all residents equally. But most of all, it’s a story of change. Indianapolis is a sprawling Midwestern city of about 900,000 people that’s low on density and surrounded by cornfields and massive logistics and manufacturing plants. The commercial corridor of 16th Street cuts through Indianapolis like the plot line of a documentary about the history of race relations in America. It ends at Interstate 70 in Martindale-Brightwood. Most residents associate 16th Street with the Indianapolis 500 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for decades a destination for the most ambitious of race-car drivers and the most avid of racing fans. As the largest sporting facility on the planet, it’s a point of pride and the reason why the city is known as the “Racing Capital of the World.” But head east along 16th Street, and the impressiveness of the gargantuan speedway quickly gives way to ramshackle strip malls, fast-food joints, empty lots, and single-family wood-frame homes that surely have seen better days. This scarred built environment is a testament to an economy that has almost never worked equally for everyone in the city, leading to entrenched poverty that has only been made worse in recent years by disproportionately high unemployment rates among Blacks and Latinos. Head still farther east and evidence of investment surfaces again. With the downtown skyline visible to the south, 16th Street becomes a stretch of high-end apartment buildings and condos, well-maintained Victorian-style homes, restaurants, and quirky retail shops. Every morning, stay at-home mothers and nannies take to the sidewalks with strollers and

rambunctious toddlers. And every afternoon, students spill out of Herron High School. It is here that Taft has made her mark as the founder and executive director of the Harrison Center, located just off 16th Street. Through events highlighting music and the visual arts, and through partnerships with community groups and the city, the center has helped turn neighborhoods bordering Martindale-Brightwood into some of the most monied and stable in all of Indianapolis. Continue east toward the interstate, though, and you enter Martindale-Brightwood. Until a few years ago, that investment never made it here. Founded in the 1800s, Martindale evolved over time into a mostly Black neighborhood, while Brightwood was home to mostly working-class immigrants from Germany, Ireland, and Britain. The construction of Interstate 70 changed that balance. White flight began after World War II and the combined neighborhood slowly became home to mostly Black residents, according to the Martindale-Brightwood Community Development Corporation.


actors mixed with residents to create a vision for a revitalized neighborhood that is equitable and inclusive. White neighbors talked to Black neighbors, renters with homeowners, millennials with baby boomers, new residents with lifers. Rather than using art for a re-enactment, focusing on re-creating the good old days that will almost certainly never come again, PreEnactment incorporates history but is a vision of the future. “We are using art to build community, to elevate long-term neighborhood stories to make sure that when new people move in,” Taft explains, “they don’t view the neighborhood as a blank slate, but that they are invited into an existing story.” It’s a way to fight what she calls “cultural gentrification” in the face of the unstoppable crush of “economic gentrification.” And, so far, it mostly appears to be working,

OPPOSITE: For PreEnact Indy, three blocks of the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood were shut down for a day. Based on input from neighborhood residents, actors used vacant lots and existing businesses as sets where they performed local visions of the future. ABOVE: Actors from Asante Children’s Theatre in a performance of the play Stoops at PreEnact Indy.



ABOVE: Residents of Martindale-Brightwood watch their visions for the future of the neighborhood as they’re performed by actors. OPPOSITE: Actors from the theater group Freetown Village perform a neighborhood barbershop scene at PreEnact Indy, which takes a proactive look at the hopes and dreams of an Indianapolis neighborhood facing gentrification.

For a time, it was a tight-knit community of young families who owned their homes, where people went to church every Sunday, older women sat on their porches in the summer, and children would head to 16th Street to buy penny candy. “I grew up in a neighborhood that was very secure and safe, and it was a mixed neighborhood,” says Shirley Webster, 81, who has lived in Martindale-Brightwood on and off for decades. “Then the decline.” Indeed, the Great Recession hit the neighborhood with a particular vengeance. The population shifted from mostly homeowners to mostly renters. To this day, scores of lots remain vacant, and houses on some streets off 16th Street have been left to rot. Crime persists in certain pockets. New Investment—and the Same Old Gentrification? This picture is changing, though. The administration of Indianapolis mayor Joe Hogsett recently selected the neighborhood for $4.5 million worth of investment over three years under a program called Lift Indy. There is an equitable component to the program, with a commitment to build some low-income housing. A new complex, Monon Lofts Apartments, is part of that. The Greater Indy Habitat for Humanity is also building houses there. Still, hundreds of vacant lots are slated to be developed over the next three years, irrevocably changing the demographics

of Martindale-Brightwood. What’s more, many of the neighborhood’s longtime Black residents are elderly, increasing the likelihood that their homes will be sold to younger, White residents who might not know or care about the local history. “I find my own children don’t really want my house,” Webster says with a laugh. Still, she largely shrugs off the prospect of change as both inevitable and welcome. Already, there’s a new pizza shop and a restaurant that sells specialty tacos. A new brewery has also opened, along with a whiskey distillery. Terri Taylor, who along with Webster has been dubbed a neighborhood “Greatriarch”—the Harrison Center’s term for a longtime resident who helped shape the neighborhood—says many of the new businesses don’t seem to be targeting long-term residents like herself. Rather, they are capitalizing on the influx of young renters and homeowners, as well as curious passersby from a popular bike trail, the Monon, which bisects Martindale-Brightwood and runs the length of Marion County. “They got a coffee shop,” Taylor says of Provider Coffee. “We didn’t have coffee [shops]. My mom made coffee and she sat on our porch.” But she is quick to add that a place for hipsters to sip caffeinated beverages is much better than a sea of boarded-up houses. Birth of a Neighborhood Performance “I could see gentrification coming to my neighbors to the east,”

Photos by Chuck Horn.




81 with residents, inviting them to church and talking about the importance of attendance to build community. Another popular performer was the woman who played the niece of Charlie Wiggins, a Black race-car driver and mechanic who was barred from participating in the then-segregated Indianapolis 500, but had an outsized impact on the sport nonetheless. “It never occurred to us the first year that the story of what happens west on 16th Street might have something to do with what happens east on 16th Street,” Taft says. This year, “Wiggins’s niece” returned, this time accompanied by a car from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum that was made in Martindale-Brightwood at the now-defunct National Motor Vehicle Company. The performer talked about Wiggins’s accomplishments and his role in desegregating auto racing. PreEnact Indy also brought in NXG Youth Motorsports, a nonprofit that works to bring kids of color into racing. “You cannot have hope for the future unless you understand the pain of the past. So all of the scripts have to be rooted in a neighborhood that was torn apart by social issues and literally carved in half by the interstate,” Taft says. “So you have to understand that as you are acting out your hopes and dreams.” “We Ask Businesses to PreEnact Every Day” But for all of the labor that goes into PreEnact Indy, Taft is quick to note that the real work of combating cultural gentrification happens the other 364 days a year.


Taft says. “It was an area with a lot of vacant lots and I knew it would be the next focus for developers. We wanted to create a new model of development that wouldn’t end in gentrification.” That was the genesis of PreEnact Indy, the annual event that has become the most visible part of the Harrison Center’s larger PreEnactment movement. Taft and her staff started it by interviewing as many residents of Martindale-Brightwood as they could find. They went block by block, gathering and recording people’s hopes for the future and their reflections on the neighborhood’s past. Those recordings were then given to several theater companies, which used them as inspiration for temporary sets and for characters portrayed each October by mostly Black actors who wander 16th Street interacting with residents. The event has turned into as much a block party as a tool for neighborhood empowerment. The first year of PreEnact Indy, for example, a vacant building became a candy store, complete with a cashier selling donated sweets. In all, there were about a dozen buildings with temporary facades, all representing restaurants and stores. There was also a speaker’s corner, where residents and actors could say whatever they wanted, acting out residents’ hopes that their neighborhood could be a safe space for robust discourse. In the second year of PreEnact Indy, churches got a bigger role; Martindale-Brightwood is known for its high-concentration of them. A “church lady” made a big hit mingling




ABOVE: “Greatriarchs,” longtime residents of Indianapolis’s Monon 16 neighborhood, appear in front of their portraits along with the city’s mayor, Joe Hogsett (center), and Joanna Taft (right). Taft is executive director of the Harrison Center for the Arts in Indianapolis and creator of PreEnact Indy. TOP: Portraits of the Greatriarchs on public display.

TOP: Photo by Catherine Esselman. BOTTOM: Photo courtesy Joanna Taft.


“You cannot make a neighborhood more just or more equitable if you do a play for one day,” Taft said. “PreEnact Indy is not about making the neighborhood look pretty. It’s about changing people’s hearts. It’s about inspiring people to do something different.” So the Harrison Center sponsors several events each month to bring residents together and continue to gather their stories. There are porch parties, game nights, monthly dinner meetings, and luncheons with new residents and the Greatriachs. Most are well attended. But perhaps even more important, Taft and her team have made a point of meeting with the owners of every new business in the neighborhood, asking each how he or she is going to be a just and equitable neighbor. It’s all part of a year-round, ongoing PreEnactment movement. “We PreEnact every day,” she says. “And we ask the businesses to PreEnact every day.” Taft’s go-to example is Greek’s Pizzeria, a shop that was on the verge of opening before last year’s PreEnact Indy event. The decor of the restaurant is retro pop art and the owner had commissioned a mural. “Three days before the PreEnactment, I’m driving across 16th Street and I see a huge mural—the whole side of their




Photo courtesy Joanna Taft.

wall—of a big White woman. White face, blue eyes, pale skin, and my heart drops,” Taft recalls. “So I called them and said, ‘I’m super happy that you are bringing art to the neighborhood, but um, just wondering, are you going to have a person of color on that mural?’ And they’re like, ‘No. It’s just art. It doesn’t mean anything.’” But the co-owner, Ryan Kitto, had a change of heart. He had the mural changed so that the woman had darker skin. He says that until Taft told him, he hadn’t known about the tension in Martindale-Brightwood over race and gentrification. “I was grateful that she came down and talked to me about what PreEnactment was,” Kitto says. “It could’ve been bad.” Today, Kitto calls Greek’s Pizzeria “the melting pot” of the neighborhood. Some 60 percent of his customers are Black residents, and he says he has tried to hire as many locals as possible. In another case, Taft says she spoke to the owner of a new hair salon who erected a poster-sized advertisement outside the shop featuring a White woman. She explained that some longtime residents might be upset that he was only marketing to one type of customer. After that, the owner took down

the poster, hired a Black stylist, and decided to look for a Black barber to work in the salon too. In using her White privilege to talk to mostly White business owners about race and gentrification, Taft says she has been amazed at the results. “Every single one of them should have been incredibly offended by what I said. I’m just blown away that they haven’t been. And I think what I’ve learned is that people really want to do the right thing. They just don’t know how and they have not been invited.” This is where “changing people’s hearts” comes into play. When neighbors are not known or loved, cultural and economic gentrification happens, Taft says, and art—in this case, theater—can circumvent that by bringing people together. “I learned that art is powerful. And art is going to change things,” she says. is a journalist based in Los Angeles. Prior to joining the L.A. Times, she was a metro columnist covering race relations and community development for The Indianapolis Star. ERIKA D. SMITH


This mural is on the wall of Greek’s Pizzeria on 16th Street in the Martindale-Brightwood neighbood of Indianapolis. Originally, the mural featured a White woman with blonde hair and blue eyes. After a conversation with the Harrison Center’s Joanna Taft about how important it is to reflect the people of the neighborhood so that they feel welcome, the pizzeria’s owner asked that the artist change the image so that the woman in the mural has darker skin and blue hair.




Theater has the power to dispel fixed ideas about community renewal BY ASHLEY HANSON

to collect stories to weave into a theater production about the town’s history, I facilitated an exercise with local residents in which I asked them to imagine this scenario: If you had a magic wand and could make anything happen in Appleton, what would it be? I’m not quite sure what I expected. Make the river clean again? Open a world-class restaurant on Main Street? Get a herd of unicorns to gallop around the town at sunset every evening, kicking up clouds of fairy dust that taste like cinnamon sugar and cure the common cold? I was shocked that the majority of the participants had the same answer: Reopen the prison. Modern-day Appleton, in the view of many of its residents, is struggling. They said the population is in decline, jobs are scarce, young families are moving away, and civic pride and participation are low. By contrast, Appleton’s glory days of the 1950s were marked by a DURING A RESEARCH TRIP TO APPLETON, MINNESOTA,

comfortable prosperity. And although it has been some time since Appleton has had a booming economy, at the turn of this century it was still maintaining a number of Main Street businesses, gas stations, a TV station, and a grocery store, all of which some attributed, at least in part, to the Prairie Correctional Facility, which the city built in 1992 and which was taken over by the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) in 1997. Not only did the institution provide hundreds of stable, wellpaid jobs, it also guaranteed a steady stream of “tourists” coming to visit their friends and family members in the prison. This in turn supported hotels, restaurants, and other businesses in the area. When CCA closed the prison in 2010, it marked, in some of the locals’ minds, the end of a boom and the dawn of a bust. In a 2010 Minnesota Public Radio news article, the then mayor of Appleton, Ron Ronning, stated, “The $1.1 million that this facility brings forth to this community each

Photo by Robert Gaylord, courtesy PlaceBase Productions.


Performing a Post-Prison Economy


to reopen. The state of Minnesota had expanded its own correctional capacity and didn’t need the CCA facility any more, and no amount of lobbying or praying was going to change the fact that Prairie Correctional Facility could no longer be operated at a profit. I’ve seen a similar situation in the Iron Range, farther north in Minnesota near where my family is from. There, mining technologies have developed to the point that formerly lucrative mines simply cannot make money anymore. Some Iron Rangers wait with bated breath for these mines to reopen and still vote for the politicians who promise to get them running again. But as long as ore can

—Ashley Hanson Clinging to the Known The experience with the hypothetical magic wand was just one of many instances, in my decade-long practice as a rural artist and advocate, that reminded me of the importance of imagination. And not merely in a touchy-feely, head-inthe-clouds-artist kind of way; I came to see that many of Appleton’s economic and social woes stemmed from an inability to imagine any version of prosperity other than the one previously known. As a result, most of the town’s economic initiatives, aspirations, and dreams were centered around bringing the prison back into operation. But during all that time, the fact of the matter has been this: the prison simply wasn’t going

be extracted and processed at a lower cost elsewhere, those promises are not going to be fulfilled. (Of course, as soon as it does become profitable again, the doors will swing open and the jobs will return—until the ore runs out.) Similar scenarios play out in oil country, in coal country: the image of prosperity becomes inextricably linked with a particular industry, shutting down the possibility of imagining alternatives.

OPPOSITE: Warm-ups with the cast before performing The Spirit of Appleton, in which local cast members bring to life ideas for new businesses in Appleton, Minnesota.




year makes up approximately 60 percent of our budget in the city of Appleton.” With that kind of annual price tag, the closing of the prison was a tough economic blow for this town of about 1,300 residents. Ethical and moral questions, when I asked them, seemed a secondary concern; the inherent injustice of America’s system of mass incarceration fell much lower on the priority list than providing a livelihood for many of the town’s residents. And although their view ran counter to my own beliefs, I had to admit that I understood where the residents were coming from: morality is an abstract worry, while rent and groceries are concrete and immediate ones.



86 ON LOCATION ABOVE: Cast rehearsal and planning for creating the “Main Street of our dreams” in the production of The Spirit of Appleton. OPPOSITE: Local residents Scott Tedrick and Andrew Schmidt during the performance of the play, which allowed community members to expand their vision of community renewal in Appleton.

Toward a New Mind-set This is where I see my work fitting in. Theater and storytelling provide frameworks for exploring possible futures; they encourage participants to ask the question What if? at every juncture. What if the protagonist in one of our scenes stayed in town and started a new business instead of moving to the Big City? What if we met our new neighbors with respect and excitement rather than apprehension and disdain? What if the vacant prison or industrial building or school were turned into an artist retreat, a gallery, a climbing wall, a co-working space, a laser-tag facility? Undoubtedly the most powerful experience in Appleton—and one of my most memorable experiences in a decade of this work—took place when I and my longtime collaborator, playwright and director Andrew Gaylord, asked our 40-plus local cast members to envision a “Main Street of our dreams.” What would Main Street look like if it were thriving once again? It’s currently a two-block string of mostly deserted storefronts, but our cast came up with

a wonderful range of businesses that could occupy these buildings: ice cream parlor, flower shop, chocolatier, movie theater, mini-golf course, café, candy shop, music venue, farmers’ market, youth center, and bowling alley. Then, during the resulting theater production, The Spirit of Appleton, we included a scene in which the audience walked down a re-created Main Street, with cast members bringing to life each of these establishments, each of these possibilities. They handed out chocolate, flowers, and ice cream and invited folks to sit at outdoor café tables, to play mini-golf, or to watch an outdoor movie. The faces of the audience members lit up as they experienced the wild, even revolutionary illumination of their imaginings. Of course, it will take a great deal of hard work to bring this vision into reality; and this is not to discount the many individuals in Appleton who are already running businesses and contributing to the health and well-being of their community. I am the first to admit that it’s easier to do a play about starting a new small business than to



Photo by Robert Gaylord, courtesy PlaceBase Productions. OPPOSITE: Photo by Scott Tedrick, courtesy PlaceBase Productions.


actually start one. But the value of the exercise is that now, instead of waiting for the prison to reopen, more residents of Appleton have practiced imagining opening a café, a music venue, a gift shop. More residents have experienced taking the initial steps to start a social dance class or organize a concert series. Simply by imagining alternate engines of economic development, it’s possible to be released from an unproductive way of thinking, a cyclical rut. And theater is not only a way for us to ask what if?, but to rehearse and perform—even if only for one day—the actions it might take to make the “Main Street of our Dreams” into a reality, together. It’s not as quick as a magic wand, but it’s a start. An ICE Proposal This story, unfortunately, has a troubling coda. As I was working on this piece, I got word from friends in Appleton that there is a proposal to reopen and rededicate the prison

as an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center. Many residents are excited by this proposal; it seems to them that their prayers to reopen the facility have been answered. In August, at one of the bars in town, there was a gathering of organizers who got together to strategize how to prevent this ignominious institution from coming to town. Their case may be strengthened by their ability to offer alternative ways for the town to thrive, rather than by continuing to rely on a culture of incarceration to keep the lights on.


a 2018 Obama Foundation fellow, is the founder of PlaceBase Productions, which creates site-specific musicals celebrating small-town life, and the Department of Public Transformation, which collaborates with rural leaders on creative strategies for community connection and civic participation.

BOOKS New Publications ART & DAILY LIFE



ARCHITECTURE Critical Care: Architecture and Urbanism for a Broken Planet Edited by Angelika Fitz and Elke Krasny Vienna, Austria, and Cambridge, MA: Architekturzentrum Wien and MIT Press, 2019

Decoding Dictatorial Statues A project by Ted Hyunhak Yoon, edited by Bernke Klein Zandvoort, with text by Brian Dillon, Erika Doss, Leonor Faber-Jonker, Florian Göttke, and Martijn Wallage Eindhoven, Netherlands: Onomatopee / D.A.P., 2019

Against the backdrop of current global crises, architecture and urbanism are presented as part of a livability solution. The book includes essays covering ethical architecture, land policy, creative ecologies, diverse economies, caring communities, and labor exploitation and 21 illustrated case studies on economy, ecology, and labor.

With a special focus on sculptural body language and social and political factors, Ted Hyunhak Yoon examines the interaction of statues and public space. Clichéd poses used in statues of leaders are analyzed from a designer’s perspective, with hand gestures dissected to consider details such as thumb positions, palm placement, and pointed fingers.

New Chinese Architecture: Twenty Women Building the Future Austin Williams New York: Thames & Hudson, 2019

Plastic Capitalism: Contemporary Art and the Drive to Waste Amanda Boetzkes Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2019

In a close look at 20 female Chinese architects who are leaders in the field, New Chinese Architecture details their various practices. With engaging color photos, a series of articles and interviews, and a look at both major works and personal insights, this book explores their impacts on the architectural scene.

Through examination of a series of works by internationally recognized artists, including Mel Chin, Agnes Denes, Mierle Laderman Ukles, Vik Muniz, and Lucy Walker, Plastic Capitalism addresses the contemporary art trend of visualizing waste. The author explores the relationship between waste and a global practice of simultaneous reduced energy use and promoted profitable resource consumption.


Our Voices: Indigeneity and Architecture Rebecca Kiddle, luugigyoo patrick stewart, and Kevin O’Brien China: Oro Editions, 2018

Public Art Encounters: Art, Space and Identity Edited by Martin Zebracki and Joni M. Palmer New York: Routledge, 2018 From Birmingham to Budapest, Singapore to South Africa, this collection of case studies by a range of public art scholars examines encounters with art in public space. Organized under sections on power, affect, and diversity—with connections drawn to community, geography, play, transit, environmental impact, and more—this anthology critically considers perspectives on public art across political, economic, social, and cultural realms. Speaking of Indigenous Politics: Conversations with Activists, Scholars, and Tribal Leaders Edited by J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, with Foreword by Robert Warrior Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2018 To share the significance of Indigenous politics and how it shapes our lives, this volume includes conversations from J. Kēhaulani Kauanui’s Indigenous Politics radio program, with candid interviews about colonialism’s devastating erasure of Native peoples and their options for resistance.

A foreword on the ethics of writing and producing a book on this topic sets a thoughtful tone for this compilation of Indigenous perspectives on architecture design theory and practice. Places and spaces informed by indigeneity are explored by Indigenous contributors from New Zealand, Canada, Australia, and the United States.

ARTISTS Balkrishna Doshi: Architecture for the People Edited by Mateo Kries, Jolanthe Kugler, and Khushnu Hoof, with text by Balkrishna Doshi, Khushnu Hoof, Kenneth Frampton, Kazi Ashraf, Martha Thorne, Samanth Subramanian, Juhani Pallasmaa, Rajeev Kathpalia, and Jolanthe Kugler Germany: Vitra Design Museum and the Wüstenrot Foundation with the Vastushilpa Foundation / D.A.P., 2019 A comprehensive monograph on Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Balkrishna V. Doshi, this book covers a selection of the architect’s top projects over a 60-year career. Doshi’s legacy includes socially engaged residential projects across India, urban planning, and a commitment to education. With essays, drawings, floor plans, master plans, and engaging color photographs.

BOOKS Olafur Eliasson: Experience Olafur Eliasson, Michelle Kuo, and Anna Engberg-Pedersen New York: Phaidon, 2019 (first printed 2018)

Full-color photos illustrate artist team Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset’s career—working on spatial interventions across multiple disciplines —along with a candid artist interview, a survey of their work, and select artist writings.

Covering 22 years of Olafur Eliasson’s artwork, and accompanied by impressive color photos, this monograph includes a conversation with the artist, where he answers questions about his process and inspiration.

Jaume Plensa: One Thought Fills Immensity Text by Jeremy Strick, Clare Lilley, Brooke Kamin Rapaport, Fumio Nanjo, Catherine Millet New York: Artbook / D.A.P., 2018

Sharon Hayes Julia Bryan-Wilson, Jeannine Tang, and Lanka Tattersall New York: Phaidon, 2018

Over 200 gorgeous color photos illustrate this monograph on the internationally celebrated Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, who has said, “All art is public,” and is best known for his large-scale figure sculptures and installations.

Through an interview and color illustrations, in a comprehensive biography of significant projects, Sharon Hayes shares the performance and social engagement work of the contemporary American artist. Projects include her monument addressing the absence of monuments to women in Philadelphia.

Marina Abramović: Writings 1960–2014 Text by Susanne Kleine and Rein Wolfs Köln: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König / D.A.P., 2018 Published in conjunction with the 2018 exhibit Marina Abramović: The Cleaner, this publication compiles over 50 years of the artist’s notes, diary entries, concepts, poems, instructions, descriptions, ideas, letters, and other documents into a chronological narrative that reveals an insight into the artist’s inner world.

Trevor Paglen Julia Bryan-Wilson, Lauren Cornell, and Omar Kholeif New York: Phaidon, 2018 The first complete monograph on the artist Trevor Paglen, this book reveals three decades of Paglen’s work investigating surveillance and government secrecy, and their impact on geopolitics, policy, and daily life.

In our society things are often not as they appear. The beauty of the unexpected is serendipitous. As we erase and change our environment so does nature, reclaiming objects that we have abandoned.” - Lance Ryan McGoldrick Relegation, © 2017

The City of Albuquerque supporting public artists since 1978.

@abqpublicart #oneabq


Elmgreen & Dragset Linda Yablonsky, Martin Herbert, Connie Butler, and Jason Schmidt New York: Phaidon, 2019


BOOKS CITY-MAKING & URBAN DESIGN Affordable Housing, Inclusive Cities Vinayak Bharne and Shyam Khandekar China: Oro Editions, 2019

Envisioning Better Cities: A Global Tour of Good Ideas Patricia Chase and Nancy K. Rivenburgh, PhD China: Oro Editions, 2019


Exploring social justice and city-making through comparative discussions from across the globe, these 50 essays and case studies include conversations with administrators and civic leaders, organized under three sections: “Inclusive Cities,” Affordable Housing,” and “Extreme Affordability.” With a call to expand the focus of urban equitability, the authors seek more examination of affordable housing and inclusive city-making.

From Australia to Israel, Canada to Cuba, and more, this book visits cities around the globe, revealing feasible and inspirational ideas for more livable and sustainable cities. Via a compelling series of examples, Envisioning Better Cities empowers readers to reconsider urban improvement through ideas that invite, inspire, connect, communicate, move, and support people.

Callous Objects: Designs against the Homeless Robert Rosenberger Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017

From Fallow: 100 Ideas for Abandoned Urban Landscapes Jill Desimini China: Oro Editions, 2019

This slim volume aims to uncover injustice built into our shared environment. Case studies of everyday objects in Callous Objects examine the policies and strategic designs that push people experiencing homelessness out of public spaces. Ideas from social theory and the philosophy of technology combine to illuminate common anti-homeless ideologies physically built into communities via political will and the law.

Considered by the author to be a forward-thinking reflection rather than a field guide, this book is a collection of 100 curated ideas that both document and speculate on possibilities for vacant lots, with a goal to think differently about pre-existing site conditions.


Based in the Midwest and Consulting on Public Art Projects Nationwide, Our Team Has Over 25 Years of Museum Experience Appraisals for Insurance or Fair Market Value Condition Assessment and Maintenance Inventory and Collections Management Consulting for Special Projects 816-708-0705

Sky Stations, 1994, by R.M. Fischer City of Kansas City, Missouri, One Percent for Art Program

BOOKS DESIGN Solving Critical Design Problems: Theory and Practice Tania Allen New York: Routledge, 2019

Craft Edited by Tanya Harrod Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2018 Practice Edited by Marcus Boon and Gabriel Levine Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2018

CREATIVE PRACTICES Artistic Collaboration Today: Profiles of Creative Teams in Diverse Media Victor M. Cassidy Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2018 In a collection of case histories, artists describe their collaborations with other artists. Through interviews and studio visits with more than 40 collaborating artists—from sculptors, painters, and printmakers to photographers, architects, and performers—the author highlights the creative power of artists working in tandem.

The Rural Edited by Myvillages (Kathrin Böhm, Wapke Feenstra, and Antje Schiffers) Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2019 As part of the Documents of Contemporary Art series, these three volumes investigate their title topics through many voices and perspectives. Artists surveyed in Craft include Louise Bourgeois, Theaster Gates, and Martin Puryear; while those in Practice include Pussy Riot, Yoko Ono, and Marina Abramović; and The Rural includes Lina Bo Bardi, Andrea Zittel, and Robert Smithson, among others.


In an exploration of the increasing use of design to solve complex, contemporary problems, and how the role of the designer evolves in response to that use, Solving Critical Design Problems presents 13 case studies to help readers solve design problems. Chapters are included in sections on usability, technology, sustainability, and morality.


Photo by Pachia Xiong

The Aardvark Shed at Western Sculpture Park Saint Paul, Minnesota

silvercocoon design build team

Souliyahn Keobounpheng. Tom Westbrook. Victoria Kern. Nathan Ehrlich. Hannah Sicora. Silo Keobounpheng.

Major support for The Aardvark Shed from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Saint Paul Cultural Star

BOOKS Art Space Ecology: Two Views—Twenty Interviews John K. Grande Chicago: Black Rose Books / University of Chicago Press, 2019

Performance Now: Live Art for the 21st Century RoseLee Goldberg New York: Thames & Hudson, 2018 Performance Now outlines worldwide developments in visual art since the turn of the century. The increasing recognition of this varied art form is examined, as the author notes that “new areas of study are shifting understandings of ‘the live’ as a significant visual art form.”

Via 20 interviews, art critic and curator John K. Grande explores artists’ use of the environment as canvas, and the relationship between art and site in the natural world.



Site See: New Views in Old Town

Curatorial Activism: Towards an Ethics of Curating Maura Reilly, with Foreword by Lucy Lippard New York: Thames & Hudson, 2018

Placemaking with Children and Youth: Participatory Practices for Planning Sustainable Communities Victoria Derr, Louise Chawla, and Mara Mintzer New York: New Village Press, 2018

A call to action for curators, this book presents the themes of “Resisting Masculinism and Sexism,” “Tackling White Privilege and Western-Centrism,” and “Challenging Heterocentrism and Lesbo-Homophobia.” While calling out exclusionary practices, Reilly and Lippard offer strategies for change, along with actions designed to amplify voices of marginalized artists.

From the forward-thinking mind-set of creating sustainable future cities, this practical guide outlines how to engage youth in local research and action for environmental planning and design. Including case studies on child-friendly city initiatives, this title shares best practices for working ethically with children, and proposes cross-generational engagement, with attention to equity.

Graffiti Grrlz: Performing Feminism in the Hip Hop Diaspora Jessica Nydia Pabón-Colón New York: NYU Press, 2018

Social Practice Art in Turbulent Times: The Revolution Will Be Live Edited by Eric J. Schruers and Kristina Olson New York: Routledge, 2020

Through stories from 100 womxn in 23 countries, Graffiti Grrlz examines the world of graffiti art, revealing the daily performance of feminism for the girls and womxn who write graffiti, and the spaces and subculture they inhabit.

An anthology of current research on social practice art, Social Practice Art in Turbulent Times covers history, case studies, field reports, future trends, and more. Topics and projects represent creative work by artists who engage audiences as active participants toward social and political change.

Inagural Work Mirror Mirror by SOFTlab

Interactive temporary installation that responds to sound with light and color.

See what Alexandrians have been buzzing about. Follow #mirrormirrorALX.

@alexartsoffice • #artsALX •

The Alexandria Office of the Arts is a division of the Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities. Learn more at Follow @alexartsoffice on Twitter and Instagram.



Public Art Review

Public Art Review

Public Art Review

Issue 56 • Spring/Summer 2017 •

Issue 55 • Fall/Winter 2016 •

Issue 55 • The Geniuses • Sicilian Land Art • Los Angeles Biennial • Jencks’s Cosmic Landscapes • Atlas of Tomorrow

THE GENIUSES Public artists who have won MacArthur Awards



Resistance and reclamation




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Public Art Review Your essential guide to public art

SUBSCRIBE available worldwide to individuals & institutions BREATHING CATHEDRAL | THE ARCH AT 50 | ARABIAN ARTSCAPE | MUSEUMS GO PUBLIC

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Barbara Grygutis Kansas City, Missouri

Firefighters Memorial Kansas City, Missouri Aluminum, native limestone, integrated lighting Commissioned by: KCMO Park Planning and Design and Municipal Art Commission Kansas City, Missouri

Issue 53 • Norway • Museums Go Public • The Arch at 50 • Arabian Artscape

Fabrication: TROCO Photography: John Mutrux

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Public Art Review Issue 53 • Fall/Winter 2015 •


Public Art Review Issue 52 • Spring/Summer 2015 •

LEADING THE WAY Norway invests in art addressing violence, climate change, forgiveness, and compassion





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Grygutis KC Firefighters FINAL.indd 1

10/1/15 3:50 PM

Jasmeen Patheja: Interview | Jennifer Wen Ma: Profile | Marina Abramovic: Project

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Radiance | El Paso International Airport

Codaworx People’s Choice Award


Arts & Science Council

25, 27

Madison Group Fine Art Appraisals


Barbara Grygutis Sculpture

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Metro Art


City of Albuquerque, Public Art Urban Enhancement


Public Art Saint Paul




City of Alexandria

92 Scottsdale Public Art


City of Palm Desert


Vicki Scuri SiteWorks Franz Mayer of Munich Glasmalerei Peters Studio





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Image: Hot Lunch installation at Mall of America by Emmy-award winning Minneapolis artist HOTTEA; artist commissioned by Forecast. Photo Š Mike Madison.




Kaleidoscope BEGINNING ON EARTH DAY 2019, a temporary, large-scale, site-specific installation addressing resource use and the decline of pollinators was suspended from an atrium skylight in the Mall of America (MOA) in Bloomington, Minnesota, near Minneapolis. Christopher Lutter-Gardella’s Kaleidoscope features a 30-foot monarch butterfly surrounded by more than 300 smaller butterflies; pulling a cord can activate the wings of the centerpiece. One of Lutter-Gardella’s goals is to educate audiences on the importance of pollinators and how humans can support their flourishing. “This installation draws attention to the crisis of our pollinator populations and the habitats they rely upon,” he says. “Butterflies are not just pretty insects on which we should dote, but are part of the life-stream essential to our very survival.” Lutter-Gardella worked with hundreds of volunteers to hand-make each of the 372 smaller butterflies. More than 700 coat hangers, 600 spoons, 800 yards of fabric, and 100 yards of window screen material, along with plastic bags, straws, and other waste-stream items, compose the installation. “I’m hoping that as people look closer, they can understand that it’s made from all these materials that are around them every day that get thrown in the garbage,” says Lutter-Gardella. “I’m hoping the piece really inspires people to think deeper about how we live on earth and how we live in relation to other creatures.”

MOA hired Public Art Review’s publisher, Forecast Public Art, to help commission the installation. JEN DOLEN

is a photographer and is on the editorial team for Public Art Review.

Photo courtesy Mall of America.

A massive 30-foot monarch butterfly with over 300 smaller butterflies—suspended from the Mall of America’s skylight—was created from waste-stream materials and unveiled on Earth Day

Take a free guided tour of artwork in Metro stations. Each two-hour tour is unique, educational and led by a Metro Art Docent or artist. and click on Art Tours metroartla

“Thank you for the amazing art you installed on the bridge. The color you have brought to this otherwise dismal area is jaw dropping! You have brought us so much joy. Thank You!” -Jessica, local business manager

Aurora “Bright Dawn” Seattle, WA 2019 Client: City of Seattle Office of Arts & Culture Prime Team: SDOT


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Public Art Review

Public Art Review Issue 59 • 2020 •

Issue 59 • How We Live Together • International Award 2019 • Puerto Rico • Water Justice • Pre-Enactment Theater

Redesigning How We Live Together Artists and designers invite us to focus on justice, inclusion, and human dignity

Seesaws Across the U.S.–Mexico Border: A 40-minute-long temporary playground has global impact


$30.00 USD

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