The end of October was the deadline for applications to participate in the city's Public Art Program, which is the initiative of the Office of Cultural Affairs to promote the commission of new public art. At the beginning of December, the OCA announced that they had narrowed down some 273 applications to select 50 artists who will be given the opportunity to potentially, maybe create public art on commission from the city.
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Call me a cynic, but the artists on the pre-approved, totally official and closed for two years public art list defied my expectations. The ones whose work I am familiar with are some of the best artists in Dallas. And if I were an artist, I probably would've jumped at the chance to get my name on this list. So now, I'll be curious to see how it all plays out.
On the surface it looks like a great start toward encouraging and supporting public art in Dallas, after years of floundering in that area. They know artists deserve to be paid for their work. Check box for available funds. They know artists should be instructed on how the city expects them to develop, budget for and execute work. Check box for giving these pre-approved artists workshops. And they know that they should take artists seriously and require them to submit resumes and previous work. Check box for application process with committee to rummage through applicants and select good candidates.
What I'm curious about is this idea of the pre-approved, closed for two years list and how many public art projects will actually be created and sustained. There are 50 people on it, and according to the press release only six available projects currently for 2015. It looks like these 50 people will be fighting for projects and pitching their own, so was the list just a way to make life at the OCA a little easier? ( "You're not the pre-approved list, see you in two years. Next!" ) And then, I wonder about the ephemeral nature of the art created. The original call for submissions listed potential locations as, "parks, street right-of-way, water utilities locations, and other public locations in 2015-16." Which gives me pause. Are these just temporary pieces? Or if they are permanent, will they be maintained and cared for by the city? Basically, what it comes down to for me is the battle of good intentions and follow through.
But the fact that this list of artists is as good as it is has me crossing my fingers and hoping the city sees this one through. Wouldn't it be great if the next time we're talking about public art in Dallas, we could all say, "Good on you, Office of Cultural Affairs"?