CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Even during a pandemic, public art prevails and proliferates.
Children scampered on and around Hancher’s “Wellspring” fish sculptures in October while waiting to tour the “Hancher Illuminated” indoor/outdoor light and art installation in Iowa City. High school seniors and newlyweds pose for photos by the giant “Rollic” sculpture in downtown Cedar Rapids’ Greene Square. Pedestrians stroll, dine and listen to music in Marion’s Uptown Artway, which transformed a nondescript alley into a destination space.
Countless others have flocked to downtown Cedar Rapids and Iowa City in years past to see artists’ whimsical visions play out on temporary sculpture installations honouring two versions of Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” couple, the Wright Brothers’ Eastern Iowa roots and the University of Iowa’s Herky mascot.
“That’s one of the wonderful things about public art. It has the ability to be place-making, becoming a destination place,” said Sean Ulmer, 57, executive director of the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art and chair of the Linn County’s Public Art Commission. “And I think that those of us who are more involved in the public sector understand that great public art can really be a draw to a community.”
It also helps establish a sense of identity, said Kayt Conrad, 61, Cedar Rapids Visual Arts Commission chair, pointing to the new gateway mural in Czech Village, inspired by the artistry of Czech painter Alphonse Mucha. The village’s business community is investing in public art, as well, on its buildings.
“Ultimately, what they’re doing is great for the city,” Conrad told The Gazette of Cedar Rapids. “It brings people here to look at the art. It gives people a sense of pride in their neighbourhoods and the places where they live and work, so it’s just a benefit to everyone.”
Public art has been around since cave men drew on walls, and ancient civilizations filled their temples and city squares with sculptures.
“Public art is one of the oldest forms of art-making,” Ulmer said — and lately, it has been springing up around the Corridor, spreading much-needed cheer in this all-too-gloomy year.
“Public art is something that we can all rally behind. With things being a little bit dark at times, or this year in general, it’s nice to have a positive light out there, and the sculptures in the area do just that,” said artist Dale Merrill, 47, who specializes in abstract sculptures created in his Liberty Iron Works studio in Mount Vernon. “We can appreciate the art, get a smile and maybe forget about some of the stuff around us.”
One of his most recent pieces is “Forge-Stand-Rise,” a 17-foot steel sculpture commissioned by the League of Women Voters of Linn County to mark two centennials: the formation of the national League of Women Voters and the passage of the 19th amendment, providing women the right to vote. Placed along the trail outside the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, the statue was presented to the city Oct. 22.
Merrill has seen an increase in demand this year for his work from the private and public sector. It’s a trend echoing around the Corridor, with recent unveilings of such publicly and privately funded works as a giant cherry behind the Cherry Building in the NewBo District, murals in Kingston and Czech villages, the League of Women Voters statue, a metal and lighted piece mounted on the back of CSPS Hall, a photo and prism suspension inside the DoubleTree by Hilton Cedar Rapids Convention Center, all in Cedar Rapids, as well as the Hancher sculpture garden in Iowa City.
More art is in the works for both cities, according to leaders with the Linn County, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City public arts advisory boards. Installation of several public pieces is due to begin next spring, especially in Iowa City’s new Riverfront Crossings district.
Both cities make money available for public art, depending on the size and scope of the project. After the 2008 flood destroyed Linn County buildings, the Board of Supervisors designated 1 per cent of funding for new structures be used for indoor or outdoor art, Ulmer said. Public art also has been financed through a combination of grants and private and public funds.
Such expenditures haven’t always been embraced by the public, with pushback on allocating toward art for Greene Square renovations in Cedar Rapids, announced in 2015, to objections over various projects in downtown Iowa City.
“Everything that any city department or city board or commission does is up for public scrutiny, and we’re going to get people who agree and who disagree with what we do,” Conrad said. “That’s their right, and they’re taxpayers and citizens, and we welcome public input.”
As part of developing a more concrete strategic art plan for Iowa City in recent years, members of the public were invited to fill out a survey and provide input on existing art installations and places where they would like to see more arts.
“What we found out is that people want to see different types of art, not just permanent sculptural installations,” said Marcia Bollinger, 64, the city’s staff liaison to the public art program. They want to see more performance, more temporary, more interactive kinds of art installations.
The timing is right for adding art to the public landscape, Ulmer said.
“As we find ourselves in the midst of a pandemic, going out and seeing art in the public space is a relatively safe thing to do with your family unit,” he said. “You can enjoy artwork in some cases without even leaving your car, or easily by travelling by foot in the open air and seeing these things in the built environment.”
The Cedar Rapids Visual Arts Commission has turned spotting the art into a game on its website, including a map of public installations and a drive-by bingo link, complete with four bingo cards to download.
Some of the pieces are by local artists, others are by artists around the country and abroad, and one is by the late Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali. His bronze sculpture, “Terpsichore, Muse of the Dance,” acquired in 1969, is displayed on the third floor of Cedar Rapids City Hall.
Area residents also have had a hand in creating at least two large-scale suspended installations in downtown Cedar Rapids in recent years. A piece by Ralph Helmick of Newton, Mass., hangs inside the Federal Courthouse atrium and features silhouettes of people who posed for photos in a Greene Square tent during a 2012 Downtown Farmers Market. The new piece suspended in the bump-out at the convention complex includes 340 public-submitted photographs of the Cedar Rapids area, printed on acrylic and suspended with prisms to capture light. The work was created by Seattle artist and architect John Fleming, who helped install it in October.
Both the courthouse and convention centre pieces are lighted and visible from the street.
Merrill, who works in his shop with his son, Kale, 19, has two large-scale pieces in the works: a 20-foot-long bar counter for the new Hotel Millwright in Amana, and a 10-foot-tall by 15-foot long Floyd of Rosedale metal sculpture for the city of Fort Dodge. The inspiration pig for the Iowa-Minnesota football rivalry trophy came from Rosedale Farms near Fort Dodge, Merrill noted. And the Amana hotel countertop will have antique tools and gadgets from the former woolen mill encased in layers of epoxy resin to preserve a piece of history.
Public art commissions can open new doors for artists, raising their profile and giving them new outlets for their art, Ulmer said.
“It’s very meaningful to be selected to create a work of public art,” he said. “It is out there for the entire world to enjoy. You are in people’s worlds. It’s not as if they have to come to an art museum to see your work. They can see your work as a part of their daily life. You have, as an artist, the opportunity to impact people’s lives on a daily basis. And that’s huge.”
Diana Nollen, The Associated Press
Inglewood home of limited augmented reality art exhibition – CTV Toronto
Local artists will be bringing their works to augmented reality in the windows of businesses in Inglewood during a limited six-week exhibition.
Northern Reflections is four years running and is an augmented reality exhibition that will feature 11 teams of artists celebrating the power that music, art and business have.
It will run from Jan. 21 through Feb 25.
“It brings business, it brings activation to a neighborhood, this is super COVID safe and it’s also making people think maybe what the future of art is and what that means in terms of participation and engagement,” said Maud Collective creative festival producer, Kevin Jesuino.
Rebecca O’Brien, executive director of the Inglewood Business Improvement Area (BIA) was excited to bring this exhibit to the Inglewood community.
“I was like yes, this makes total sense because one of the main roles of the BIA is to bring vibrancy to the main street which is very challenging during a pandemic,” said O’Brien.
The exhibit will showcase the works of painters, animators and there will be murals paired with music produced by local and international entertainers.
“People can walk up and down the street, check out the murals, see the magic of the augmented reality but at the same time listen to this music that’s made by local musicians,” Jesuino said.
This is the first time the art will all be held within the one community for viewing.
“You can do a walk and see all 10, all 11 murals in one go, within 40 minutes you can see them all,” said Jesuino.
Uii Savage, an emerging artist in Calgary did the animating art for the exhibition.
“I’m really pleasantly happy with it, this is my first-time being part of the festival, so I am someone who works alone, I don’t really work collaboratively but this was a really great experience to work with other people,” Savage said.
Savage created 3D hands that reach out from the branches of the mural and coming together to hold each other which brings attention to the importance of human contact and how it’s missed during the pandemic.
Inglewood resident Dawn Warner was highly impressed by the artistry on display.
“It was just amazing, I’ve never seen anything like that in a picture in my life, like a bunch of hands were moving coming in to the picture, it was really cool,” said Warner.
Participants can download the free Augle app onto their phones to get involved with the interactive element of the exhibit.
The Northern Reflections exhibition is a part of a large winter art festival, Chinook Blast, taking place throughout the city from Feb. 11-28.
With files from Ty Rothermal
Art Beat: Rogue Arts Festival goes virtual on Saturday – Coast Reporter
The music and cultural gathering that is the Rogue Arts Festival was among the many arts cancellations last summer, thanks to the pandemic. But the funkiest annual festival on the Coast is bringing last summer’s planned lineup of acts back for a mini-fest this weekend, online. “We are thrilled to be able to showcase a diverse sampling of 2020 Rogue Fest artists while remembering the volunteers, vendors, staff and supporters that have made us who we are today,” Rogue Fest said in a Facebook post. On Saturday, Jan. 23, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. you can catch Bits of String, Disco Funeral, Parlour Panther, Sadé Awele, Sarah Noni, Stephen Hamm, and Tetrahedron. “Hosted by the ever-awesome Ndidi Cascade.” Go to roguefest.ca for details on the performers and information on how to link up on Saturday afternoon.
Also online this weekend is an opening reception, art exhibit, and meet-the-artist session all in one. On Sunday, Jan. 24, Sechelt artist Lynda Manson presents Tracing Footsteps, a collection of paintings based on sketches by her uncle, Bruce Black, who was killed in action in the Second World War. Manson will show Black’s sketches made while he was off-duty in the U.K., her re-imagined and elaborated takes on them, plus other works related to the theme. Proceeds from the exhibition will go to the bursary fund of the Sunshine Coast branch of the Canadian Federation of University Women. Tickets are $10 at eventbrite.ca or at cfuwsc.org.
The pandemic has been just as hard on the arts community as other parts of the community and economy since early 2020, so the B.C. government has come up with a new grant program to help out. “Together with the arts sector, we are working hard to make sure that dancers, writers, painters and other artists can continue being resilient and finding innovative ways to keep creating through COVID-19,” B.C. Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport Melanie Mark said in a news release. The ministry has created a new, $500,000 Pivot for Individuals program through the BC Arts Council. B.C. residents can apply for up to $12,000 to learn new skills or adapt their practices. The program is available to professional artists and cultural workers, including: dancers and choreographers; visual artists; writers; actors; multi-media artists; and arts administrators. To learn more, go to bcartscouncil.ca and follow the links.
Due to the pandemic, all listed live events are subject to change. Check ahead. Space is limited in Art Beat but please let us know about your events at email@example.com
President Biden Picks Oval Office Art, Inauguration Spotlights Paintings, and More: Morning Links from January 21, 2021 – ARTnews
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PERFORMERS WERE THE STARS OF YESTERDAY’S INAUGURAL ACTIVITIES, with singers like Lady Gaga, Jon Bon Jovi, and Bruce Springsteen participating in the celebration of President Biden and Vice President Harris, and poet Amanda Gorman delivering an address that stole the show, but visual art is playing a symbolic role in the transition of power, as well. Washington Post reporter Annie Linskey and photographer Bill O’Leary got a look inside Biden’s Oval Office, and found that a portrait of Benjamin Franklin had taken the place of one of President Andrew Jackson (a favorite of President Trump). The presence of Franklin, who was an inventor, writer, scientist, and more (really a jack of all trades), is “intended to represent Biden’s interest in following science,” Linskey writes. Also present: busts of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, a moon rock, and a 1917 Childe Hassam flag painting that President Obama also displayed in the office. (Trump had it on view for a stretch, but eventually removed it.) As it happens, historian Jon Meacham, who’s known to have Biden’s ear, used another Hassam for the cover of his 2018 book, The Soul of America.
PRESIDENTS CAN BORROW ART FROM THE SMITHSONIAN TO DECORATE the White House, as Smithsonian magazine detailed in 2009. Obama’s picks included pieces by Ed Ruscha and Glenn Ligon. It’s not known yet what the Bidens may have picked, but Alex Greenberger reported in ARTnews that First Lady Jill Biden did help select a landscape by the pioneering Black painter Robert Duncanson to serve as the official painting of the inaugural. The work is owned by the Smithsonian American Art Museum in D.C., and its inclusion signals “a new administration with an insightful understanding of art’s potential power,” Los Angeles Times critic Christopher Knight writes in a column. It was not the only painting getting some special attention. Olaf Seltzer ’s 1927 painting Lewis and Clark with Sacajawea at the Great Falls of the Missouri, 1804 was printed in the inaugural’s official program, Tulsa World reports. It’s in the collection of the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, and was just put on view yesterday in an exhibition called “Americans All!”
One last Inauguration-related item: street artist Adrian Wilson was responsible for transforming a New York subway sign at 46th Street in Queens to read “46th Joe”—an image that spread quickly around the world. [Gothamist]
Collector Roberto Polo, a “financier whose roller-coaster career included a major art fraud scandal that landed him in prison,” is showcasing his holdings in new art spaces in Toledo, Spain, Raphael Minder reports. [The New York Times]
Australian artist Adrian Jones has died at the age of 63. The cause was pancreatic cancer. [ArtAsiaPacific]
Ruben Suykerbuyk has been tapped by the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, to be its new curator of Old Masters . . . [Press Release]
. . . and collectors Laurens Vancrevel and Frida de Jong have donated a number of Surrealist paintings and publications to the museum. [The Art Newspaper]
The Hyundai automobile company is partnering with the digital-art group Rhizome on a series of projects, online and off. [Aju Business Daily]
Canon has launched a website that allows users to take photographs of space via satellite technology. [Hong Kong Tatler]
Since many art museums are closed in the United Kingdom amid lockdown restrictions, The Guardian is taking a tour of their collections in a series of articles. Today’s focuses on a Rose Wylie work. [The Guardian]
Musician and artist John Lurie is the subject of a new show, which “is like an apprenticeship with a crotchety bohemian Yoda,” James Poniewozik writes. [The New York Times]
Curator Robert Storr has a new compilation of essays out—and he is as pugnacious as ever in a new interview. [Artnet News]
Hong Kong–based artist Phoebe Hui Fong-wah has been working on a new project with curator Kwok Ying that has involved collaborating with NASA. Sadly, though, just when she was about to see moon dust at one of NASA’s buildings in Houston—she was in her hotel room there!—officials told her not to come, citing coronavirus precautions. “I basically refused to leave until Ying convinced me to fly back,” she tells the South China Morning Post. “I didn’t want to bullshit. I wanted to see moon dust myself. I was gutted. But, of course, we managed in the end with Zoom and emails.” [South China Morning Post]
Thank you for reading. We’ll see you tomorrow.
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