Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014
As a native New Yorker, I actually enjoyed the Bloomberg administration and was a bit disheartened when he decided not to run as an independent for President. Though he isn’t known for his love of art, while the Mayor of New York City, there were over 500 temporary public art works commissioned throughout the five boroughs. Now, his organization Bloomberg Philanthropies has announced the nation Public Art Challenge, which is a competitive grant that will award up to $1 million for public art commissions in three cities across the country with a population of over 30,000. The goal is to “celebrate creativity, enhance urban identity, encourage public-private partnership, and drive economic development” and projects can range from traditional public art pieces like sculptures and murals to the visual arts, digital art or even performance art pieces.
This reminded me of the Race for the Top competitive grant that we discussed in class the other day, and how more and more funding for the arts is becoming a competition. ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Michigan just concluded with, for the first time in the competition’s history, the Popular Grand Vote Prize and the Juried Grand Prize was awarded to the same artist. ArtPrize, which turns the rather forgetful Michigan suburban town into a bustling art fair where the public votes for who should win the prize of Popular Grand Vote totaling $200,000 and the Jury provides its own award of the same amount. Many people feel that the jury shows the elitist side of art and the jury feels that the popular vote is a throwaway vote of no relevance to the art world. However, seeing how the public and the jury have finally agreed shows a change in the sophistication of the public perception of art. Seeing how ArtPrize has been occurring in the same town for close to a decade, it’s clear to see how public art can positively educate and expose public to fine art and fine art appreciation.
To me, public art is truly a child’s first introduction to art and something that remains when art education ends (or fails to begin in the first place). Bloomberg’s Public Art Challenge is a great endeavor and hopefully will spark more private support for art, especially public art that can reach people who need it most.