The ongoing efforts of artists and designers to reignite the spark of downtown development in aging industrial cities face no simple task. But as architects and developers begin to put pencil to paper, the best public art projects draw on the spiritual side of that renewal.
Flint, Michigan’s inaugural Free City Festival, held May 3-5, did just that when it revived a mile-long stretch of now-razed Chevrolet plants with public art, transformational lighting displays and a reverberating gospel choir.
Starting Memorial Day, Chicago’s Millennium Park will host the U.S. debut of a bright array of public design projects, many of which appeared at the 2012 Venice Biennale. Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good will feature 84 works, including more than a dozen for Chicago and several that also appeared in Venice.
Yesterday, brilliant sunshine, a gentle spring breeze, and 65 degree weather set the scene for the inauguration ceremony of Orly Genger’s remarkable new art installation, titled Red, Yellow and Blue, in Madison Square Park. As you navigate your way through the park you will find yourself surrounded by a fanciful scene, as vibrant undulating walls arch into blossoming trees, spill onto lush lawns, and unfurl all around you.
“Orly Genger has woven her magic throughout the park,” said Mayor Bloomberg, who spoke at the inauguration ceremony. The large-scale project was installed as the latest chapter of Mad. Sq. Art, a public contemporary arts program presented by Madison Square Park Conservancy that aims to revitalize the park as well as the surrounding community. “[Red Yellow and Blue] is both innovative and environmentally sustainable. It is projects like this that are a big part of what gives New York City our identity and attracts visitors to our city,” said Bloomberg.
In June a full-block surface parking lot in downtown Flint, Mich. will house a ghostly, floating home — a monument to the ravages of the foreclosure crisis and a nod to the revitalization public art projects like this one hope to further in the one-time home of General Motors.
London-based Two Islands took first place in the inaugural Flat Lot Competition, which comes with a $25,000 prize, for their design, Mark’s House. The story of an imagined Flint resident named Mark Hamilton, whose family loses their home to foreclosure, Mark’s House takes the form of a Tudor-style house clad in reflective panels and set atop a mirrored pedestal. The structure can hold 1,500 gallons of water to be used for cooling mists for visitors to the structure’s canopy and event stage on hot summer days.
The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) is expanding its programming to the streets of Fort Greene. Brownstoner reported that the multi-arts center is proposing a series of temporary murals in front of an empty lot at 31 Lafayette Avenue, across from one of its performing arts spaces, the Howard Gilman Opera House. BAM plans to launch the program with a mural by Brooklyn artist KAWS, and then invite other local talent to display their art. There will also be space made for more of David Byrne’s sculptural, letter-shaped bike racks akin to the ones he designed in front of the Peter Jay Sharp Building. Community Board 2 will vote on the art wall tomorrow.
Next week, the fifth iteration of the Times Square Alliance’s Valentine Heart installation will officially open to the public. Brooklyn-based Situ Studio revealed their installation, Heartwalk, in January, which will be built with salvaged boardwalk boards from from the Hurricane Sandy-stricken Rockaways, Long Beach, Sea Girt, NJ, and Atlantic City.
The Situ team has been busy removing hardware from the weathered planks and planing them for a smooth surface. The pre-assembled pieces will be taken to Times Square for assembly, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place on February 12 at 11:00a.m. According to a statement from Situ Studio, “Visitors can enter the installation itself and literally stand in the heart of the world’s greatest city.”
New York-based artist Leo Villareal is creatively illuminating the constructed form. In Madison Square Park, Villareal’s LED light-up geodesic dome, Buckyball, stands tall, undamaged but unlit after Hurricane Sandy. The Madison Square Park Conservancy told AN that the lights are expected to be back on tonight. And soon, Villareal also plans to light-up a far larger construction on the West coast: the San Francisco Bay Bridge.
Now this looks like a good idea: a group of architects and engineers called Urban Air are trying to turn a billboard next to LA’s 10 Freeway into a suspended bamboo garden. The technique: they remove the signage, install planters and then the bamboo, and then install water misters and sensors to make sure it’s properly irrigated. Voila! If it’s successful with the first sign the group wants to create similar gardens across the country. The ambitious plan is being crowd-funded through Kickstarter and with 46 days left has raised nearly $6,000 of its $100,000 goal as of this publishing. You can check out their Kickstarter campaign and contribute here.
If you ride your bike along Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn on your way to or from Williamsburg, you may have noticed a splash of color along the bike lane’s barrier. Similarly, the Flushing Bay Promenade in Queens got some color recently in efforts to bring art to the public. The New York City Department of Transportation, New York Cares and the Community Affairs Unit organized the event in collaboration with two Brooklyn-based artists Deanna Lee and Kara Lynch.
This Syracuse mural project, S.Alt City, was sent to AN over the summer just as we were preparing our live coverage of the Venice Biennale and went unreported in the paper. But the mural by Cheng and Snyder Architects is a smart project that deserves more attention than it has received. The mural depicts a local waterside salt barge that alludes back to Syracuse’s industrial heritage but it also imbedded QR codes throughout the work. These QR codes are becoming more ubiquitous in the world of art making and were in fact used in the Russian pavilion at the recent Venice Biennale in a grandiose and very expensive installation in their pavilion.