Wednesday, May 22, 2013

‘The art of making places public’

Art consultant opens eyes at library lecture

Express Staff Writer

This image depicts a tree grate on Red Oak Street in Seattle, Wash., by artist Susan Point. Mackie said in an interview that the grate’s design is based on red oak leaves and acorns, using traditional native carving techniques from the area. “This grate is now Seattle’s standard tree grate for all Red Oak Street tree plantings,” he said. He said such decorative tree grates are relatively inexpensive to produce because only one mold is needed to cast the four pieces required for each grate.
Courtesy photos by Jack Mackie

    During a lecture on May 9 at the Community Library in Ketchum, public art consultant Jack Mackie promoted the ability of such art to offer people an appreciable “private moment in a public place” and to serve as functional city infrastructure, with some added, locally inspired style.
    “Should we all just wear gray coveralls?” he said, referring to the fact that a city’s sewer-hatch covers, tree grates, parking meters and other typically unaesthetic and unoriginal infrastructure can become canvases for artistic expression, unique to a city’s history and cultural heritage.
    Mackie’s lecture was sponsored by the Ketchum Arts Commission, established by the city in 2009 to “integrate art into the community’s life,” according to the city’s website. The commission, and the art it supports, is funded by revenues raised according to Ketchum’s “Percent for Public Art” ordinance, adopted in 2011. The ordinance states that 1.33 percent of the cost of capital improvement projects in the city must be dedicated to the funding of art in public places.
    At the lecture, Mackie presented several images that drew applause from the attendees.
    “[Public art] is just simply beautiful stuff,” Mackie said. “There’s room and a crying need for beauty.”

This photo shows a sewer-hatch cover in Seattle, Wash., created by artist Garth Edwards. According to Mackie, Edwards describes the work “as if you’re down in the hole and people above are looking down at you.” Mackie said in an interview that hatch covers are “small jewels” scattered on a city’s sidewalks. “We should treat them as opportunities for discovery, little moments of civic distinction,” he said.
Express photo by Roland Lane

This photograph demonstrates a so-called “sidewalk stain” false shadow in Long Beach, Calif., by artist Craig Stone. According to Mackie, a portion of the money paid into the city’s parking meters repays the city for funding the art up front. “It’s play time. Let’s play,” Mackie said, referring to how artists love to play, especially with light. Other ideas Mackie demonstrated include paver inlays, images of male and female shoes on sidewalks that outline dance steps and a color-coded power substation that traces the flow of electricity in a lively manner.
Express photo by Roland Lane

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