This week, the Office of Cultural Affairs put out a call for artists to participate in its latest idea for public art. If you're keeping track, the City of Dallas hasn't been earning much in the way of positive press concerning its treatment of public art. But its latest commissions -- a generous use of the word-- are temporary art pieces, meant to spruce up a staple of downtown life: parking meters.
Through June 27, local artists can submit their CV, five low-res images of current artwork, a 100-word artist statement, a completed artist entry form (available at dallasculture.org), and two concept sketches for the backs and fronts of parking meters. Then, three artists will be chosen to paint/yarn bomb/vinyl wrap or otherwise "creatively intervene" (their words) with the meters. Selected artists or teams of artists will receive a $50 honorarium for what is being considered a volunteer effort. Then the art will remain on display for six to 12 months.
It seems necessary to point out that I know very few artists who utilize parking meters if they can avoid it. When you get to know downtown and Deep Ellum, there are plenty of back alleys and empty streets with free parking worth the extra five-minute walk. Of course, on the way to any destination in this city, outside of Uptown's valet-centric streetsides, a passerby is sure spot numerous meters. Certainly, everyone in this city knows what our parking meters look like and has spent time considering improvements, not the least of which might be: Make them cheaper.
Should an artist secure the opportunity to revamp the ubiquitous moneymakers, maybe they could use this opportunity to paint the words, "Nothing in Life Is Free" on their designated parking meters. Or write uplifting notes to the parking enforcement officials like, "Everyone hates you, but we don't" or "Those pants look great on you."
Of course, anything you put on the meters requires approval from the OCA and there are quite a few rules: "Do not use language or images that could be construed as offensive, lurid or obscene. Do not depict material political or religious in connotation. Do not include any type of merchant advertising or product endorsement. Do not obstruct meter window or operational decal. Do not paint over meter number, or coin slot."
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There goes my idea of telling the city where they can stick their $50.
When The Dallas Morning News broke the news Thursday, Michael Granberry asked the ambivalent question, "Why not?" It just seems to me (and I can't even color by numbers, so who am I to talk?) that paying an artist or a team of artists a mere $50 "honorarium" to spend time designing and executing a piece of public art is an insult to their work. It would be about enough money to take their mom to see each of their 10 parking meters once a month during their intended lifespan. And let's not even discuss paying said artist for the time it will take to wrap/paint/bomb all those meters.
If I were a consultant, I would suggest a better payment would be free parking for the artist at any City of Dallas meter during the art's lifetime. Consider that a freebie, OCA.
If you're an artist whose dream project is redesigning parking meters, email Jessica Trevizo at email@example.com.