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Posts Tagged ‘MACOPA’

I really needed this day and it did not disappoint.  The sun came out and the only snow left is in the deepest, shaded part of the woods.  The river was lower than I thought it would be and I followed the meandering driftwood line from east to west.  I picked up “parts”  for the day’s sculpture and filled my bag.  When I had enough stuff, I stopped, found a cozy log to sit on and dumped the contents of my bag on the sand and gravel.  I pulled my trusty knife from my pocket and unfolded the sharpest blade.  With the constant sound of running water around me, here is this day’s work.

I found a nice expanse of exposed limestone and began this figure.  It’s a little different in that it’s made using three chunks of Styrofoam. There are plenty of beaver-chewed willow sticks all around which will work for the figure’s limbs.  I wanted to see if I could make a figure that’s a little less static than usual.  I see this figure as having a pelvis and a lower back that flexes.  While I am making this piece, I’m breathing deeply, and thinking over events of the past week.  Yesterday was a memorable day because a committee I serve on made a big announcement about a public art strategy for Louisville.  For many years I have been an active member of the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Public Art, or MACOPA.  I chaired the Preservation Committee which always seemed kind of ironic to me since my personal art is far from the material concerns and needs of Metro Louisville’s monuments.  With all the movers and shakers of our art community assembled in Metro Hall,  Mayor Abramson announced the plan we commissioned from CREATIVE TIME that was distilled from the many round table discussions with stakeholders that were held over the course of a year.

In brief, this is what’s being proposed.  The current committee will reform as two groups.  The first group will be attached to our metro government and will manage and care for the city’s existing public art inventory.  The more novel group, will become an independent 501-(C)(3 ) that over time would be able to commission and fund artist driven public art ideas.  As you can imagine during these hard economic times, no one wants new taxes and in Louisville, the area’s developers are not in favor of a percent for art program.  In fact, we learned that across the country, percent for art programs weren’t doing as well as you may first think.  So, what will be the funding mechanism that will allow this new not for profit to prosper?  Already on the books, is a regulation for construction projects exceeding 100, 000 square feet to provide some aesthetic amenities (even art).  Developers can now opt to give that money to the new public art committee to be used to commission new works in unique sites across Metro Louisville.  This still requires approval from the Metro Council, but since the business community likes this idea, it should get passed.  In two years, the new committee (tentatively called COPA, Commission on Public Art) will hire a professional director and staff and begin with a couple trial projects.

There are benefits from forming a more professional, stand-alone group.  Our public art committee has consisted mostly of volunteers who over the years have been able to realize a few modest projects.  Louisville has been fortunate to have had recent civic leaders who at least recognized how useful public art can be in touting the city’s quality of life.  But what happens if a new administration comes along that isn’t as pro art?  They could decide to withhold resources and kill the program.  Having the new public art organization exist apart from government is designed to protect it from less friendly administrations.

Once the coffers become full, artists can submit proposals for public art projects.  To manage these projects, artists must partner with a fiscal agent, like another existing not for profit art organization, to provide some financial oversight and navigate the various legalities involved in such work.  We shall see in a few years if this will be effective?  The transition from the present committee to the new commission will be crucial.  I will be looking forward to a different spirit that looks at art in public spaces as being more than just placing objects on a site.  When MACOPA chose CREATIVE TIME over other good candidates, we were hoping their more contemporary approaches would find resonance in Louisville.  Public art does not need to be permanent art.  I’m proud to have done my small part in this process and will be interested to see what happens.  For now, I’ll keep practicing my own special brand of public art on the banks of the Ohio River.

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