Journal

Jean
Jean

Location location location

The best donor walls occur when they are part of the original design.  When the architect, Board of Directors, CEO, and fund raising director all understand the importance of acknowledging their contributors, the donor wall becomes as much of a priority as the infrastructure in the building.  Unfortunately, though, this is seldom the case.  The idea floats around the construction discussions like a butterfly… ‘oh yes, we have to do something’ but the need keeps getting pushed to the back until the doors are ready to open and the ribbon is cut. 

This is when you find the donor wall in the stairwell.  Or, the optimal wall for a mural has the emergency sprinkler hydrant located in the middle of it, requiring extensive funds to relocate the fixture. Interestingly enough, this often seems the preferable solution rather than designating a site early in the design phase. Remember, a little planning on placement can save time and money.

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Jean
Jean

Pit falls in the donor wall world

When considering the installation of a donor wall there are some major traps that need to be avoided.  The first is don’t double up on the projects.  Meaning, if there is going to be a brick pathway in the courtyard, don’t think of engraving the donor’s names into the bricks.  Not a good idea walking on the names of those you are recognizing.  The same goes with benches.  Not a preferable placement spot to have visitors sitting on the names of those responsible for helping to create the facility. Above all, NEVER install a donor wall in a stairwell, regardless of how broad the steps or how spacious the space.  Stairs are designed for movement.  Donor walls are designed for study. The two are mutually exclusive of each other and serious safety issues arise when that is overlooked.

Donor walls function best when installed in areas specially designed for their purpose.... a wall, a passageway, a meditation room.  And ideally, to operate with their full intention… which is recognition… it is best to locate them in places where people gather… a waiting room, a central part of the building where a restaurant, cashier, restroom, or gift shop converge. This provides the opportunity for the public to leisurely study the names. In turn, they also assess their experience at the facility and determine if they want to contribute more than just a membership. Because, after all, that is the second goal of recognition walls.  To inspire individuals to become a part of continuing the dream, to add their name to that list.

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Jean
Jean

Donor Recognition Walls

I am going to do a quick series on the significance of donor walls for organizations.  On occasion I have heard people will ask why should they install a donor wall.  What is the significance? After all, the money could be put towards the project, they take up room and who reads them anyway?  Good points to consider and having installed a number of walls over the years I have come to some understanding of their role.  Recognition walls are visible expressions that acknowledge the individuals and foundations who contributed to a dream with the intention of making it a reality.  Think about it… there are so many great ideas floating around out there.... ideas to eradicate leprosy, save the whales, teach the viola to children in Tibet, harvest the plankton in the Mekong Delta and convert it into jet fuel, build the world’s largest library....but none of them will reach fruition without the help of others who understand and believe in the concept, and step forward to provide funding.  It is these individuals and foundations that deserve public recognition because without them, the dream would be… just a dream. 

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Jean
Jean

Public Art and the Request for Proposals

Some RFPs (Request for Proposals) require the artist to submit a design proposal
for the designated project as part of the application. This is an artist’s worse application
nightmare and, personally speaking, I think an art committee scheme. The panel is
trolling for ideas about their projects without offering any financial compensation for the
time and effort of putting these applications together.  They want the artist to go through
the lengthy process of developing a concept, constructing the model or sketch, preparing
the cost estimate, and then submit this well, thought-out document to them free of charge.
GET REAL!  It simply shows their indifference to the artist and perpetuates the hungry artist notion
who will do anything to get a job.

The irony of this RFP technique is that communities are ultimately doing a disservice to
the selection process because it limits the number of artists who are willing to apply. 
The majority of artists know that public art is a crap shoot and to spend their time creating
speculative art is not time well spent. 

BUT

If the application is for a commission in your city, neighborhood, or state...then go for it.... always.
Because, after all, this is your community and what better place to demonstrate your
vision than to individuals who might be interested.  Also, if you have never submitted a design proposal, it is important to understand the
process. One must learn how to translate the majestic concepts that resonate in our minds to the tangible sources of paper, digital imagery, architectural renderings, cost projections, and descriptive text.  These are tools that have to be developed and perfected if a concept ever hopes to transform itself from the dream state to the light of day. 

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Jean
Jean

Public Art Survival Tip # 3

#3....Don’t go seeking rejection.  When applying for a public art commission, select the
application that fits your work. If the proposal states the committee wants figurative
bronze sculptures and you do abstract acrylics.... forget it… Don’t even bother
applying.  The art committees have, for the most part,
a sense about the art that will augment their vision and will state that in the request for proposals.
Likewise, if a commission has a budget for $400,000 and you have never erected one
larger than $40,000… chances are extremely small that you will qualify..so, once again,
don’t go looking for the rejection. 

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Jean
Jean

Public Art Survival Tip #2

Survival tip #2… Prominent poet Gary Snyder was asked at a workshop, “What can a
person do to be on the cutting edge in contemporary culture?” His answer: “Don’t
move”.  Meaning… find a community, put down roots, make connections.  A community
that believes in an artist and supports “their” artist can become the most important asset
to the artist. Pueblo is where we chose to settle and though not on the top hundred list of
contemporary cities, this community has provided the backdrop for us to explore a wide variety of
mediums, build a resume of public works and showcase our experience and
vision.

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Jean
Jean

Question to Ponder on Public Art

When giving consideration to entering the world of public art, specific questions must be entertained:
Can this transition be accomplished without loosing ourselves
and sacrificing our artistic expressions?  What are the insights on how to sustain
ourselves as we float into this new arena? How does an artist, who has never erected a
public work, demonstrate competence to a panel of jurors, proving they are a viable
contestant?  Once in the public art world, what techniques can we share?  For the past
three decades, while treading water or vigorously swimming towards that public art raft,
Tom Latka and I have discovered a few modes of survival. Some
experiences we have learned:

Survival tip #1… get use to rejection....which is like saying get used to falling out of an
airplane but keep it in perspective....‘no’ is only a two letter word, one syllable and can’t
be given too much credibility… and yet, in the same breath, rejection hurts. The ability to
rebound and keep moving forward after a crushing defeat is crucial. It’s the main
ingredient that propels one to the next proposal. Existing in the art world, one becomes adept
at dodging spears that pierce the heart but rejection ultimately cuddles up with dreams
and both must be juggled.

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Jean
Jean

Public Art is not for the faint of heart

There are many questions that an artist must ask themselves when
considering producing work for public art.  And these questions extend far beyond the
specific information of digital images and contract negotiations to encompass the
importance of addressing how we, as artists, sustain ourselves while learning to navigate
through the waters of public art. These are waters where one can literally sink and
disappear while swimming for the raft.  The emotional, financial, and physical challenges
that come with making the transition from studio to public art can be so monumental and
overwhelming that one must ask a series of questions in order to determine if these are
truly the waters into which you want to venture.

Public art is not for everyone, especially the weak at heart.  It is an aggressive world
wrought equally with rejection and self doubt on the one hand and fabulous opportunities
of expression on the other. But the reality of the situation is that an artist can have the
best photos in the world, can erect the most prominent pieces on display in a community
and yet, none of this will constitute job security.  Public art is very competitive. 

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Jean
Jean

American Concrete Convention, Las Vegas 2008

Since so much of our public art work centers around concrete these days, we thought it only appropriate to attend the national convention in Las Vegas.  Researching the event at their website I learn the dates and entry fees.... around $300 per person.  Throughout our relationship Tom and I have has always savored the opportunity to sneak into events and I thought this convention, if we could pull it off, could be another notch on our belts. Using Adobe Photo shop Tom gets the concrete logo, adds a photograph of each of us and emblazons across the top of the card, PRESS.  Digging through the drawer we find the plastic sleeves, insert the cards and hang it around our necks. We’re on.  Approaching the first gate with the security officer standing guard, we reassess our tactics and question what we will do if anyone confronts us.  Ummm… easy enough, run.... all the while yelling,… We’re artists.... we’re sorry.... don’t shoooooot.  Nobody gave us a second look....which is only encouragement to keep trying. 

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Jean
Jean

waiting for the cash

In our contracts we stipulate that we receive one third of the cost of a project at the time we sign the contract.  The second third is due prior to installation of the art and the final payment comes after the piece is installed.  With this parking garage commission, the city did not want to pay any money upfront but, after explaining to the parking board of commissioners the necessity to receive funds so we can purchase materials and pay for the engineer, they finally agreed. After a phone call today to the contractor inquiring when the funds will be available, I learned that the Urban Renewal Authority has issued the payment and that it is truly ‘in the mail’.  Now the waiting game with fingers crossed that the US Postal Service will be working in a timely manner. This confirms my experience that public art is a slow, languid process.

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