For the Masses

Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Pablo Picasso didn't have to worry about love-struck teen-agers carving their initials alongside wobbly hearts or "4-ever" on the wooden frames of their paintings. Auguste Rodin didn't fret that "The Thinker" would become a urinal for dogs and man alike. Nor did Constantin Brancusi imagine that the flat-headed lovers in his statue "The Kiss" would be used as cup holders or for games of "King of the Mountain."

However, artists who create public art have to think about such things. Their works--sculptures, murals, statues and mosaics, mostly--are installed in public parks and inside and outside buildings such as public library branches and cultural centers, places where the viewers may not be as respectful as the average gallery patron. But that's a chance these artists take when creating pieces of art that become part of the community where they are installed.

But according to the Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, which coordinates the Public Art Program, public art is also what makes a city memorable. Therefore, it's celebrating the latest projects in the PAP with an exhibit at the Bath House Cultural Center called Percent for Art. The exhibit features the models, designs and proposals used in several projects either in the process of being created and installed or that have been completed within the last year. It's a detailed look at artwork that has a tendency to hide in plain sight.

Percent for Art includes the mosaic, sports-themed medallions on the floor of the American Airlines Center, which get lost in the crowded beer-and-hot dog shuffle before, during and after games and concerts. There are also works for the new Dallas Police Headquarters and the Latino Cultural Center of Dallas and a water sculpture for the Bath House's neighbor, White Rock Lake. And it's a chance to view these works before they become part of the landscape and get redecorated by their community.

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Shannon Sutlief