NEA Grant Cultivates Public Art
RISD partners with Providence and local arts groups to reimagine downtown as a destination for the arts
“Place informs art,” noted Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), in announcing that Providence is one of the recent recipients of a grant for public art. “Like the French concept ofterroir, the best art reflects local talent and culture – the micro-climate in which it was grown.”
Landesman announced the first recipients of the NEA’sOur Town grants in a national webcast on July 12. The program brings together local governments, nonprofit organizations and other community and business partners to drive “creative placemaking” – a means of fostering lively, sustainable communities with arts at their core.
Given its own fertile cultural climate, Providence has earned a $200,000 Our Town grant, spearheaded byLynne McCormack 87 FAV, in her role as Director of Art, Culture + Tourism for the city of Providence. As a key collaborator, RISD will work with the city and 17 arts and business partners in revitalizing Providence’s Kennedy Plaza transport hub as a social and cultural destination.
Patricia Phillips, Interim Associate Provost for Academic Affairs, will lead RISD’s portion of the project in collaboration with selected faculty members. Two studios will look at how to unite the city’s coalition of civic, academic and creative partners to create a cultural hub and thriving public space in a busy bus station that faces a number of urban challenges.
“At RISD our classrooms and studios are incubators for new forms and concepts, as well as interactive sites to rework more enduring ideas,” Phillips noted at a local press conference to announce the new grant. “RISD’s students and faculty – in collaboration with other artists, cultural organizations and innovators from other fields – will imagine generative and sustainable public places and programs for our city and our community.”
An interdisciplinary studio at RISD called Art/Place in the Public Realm will offer both undergraduate and graduate students from a number of disciplines the opportunity to research and create public art. The studio will focus on related issues through readings, field trips and dialogues with contemporary public artists. In addition, students will conduct on-site analysis, meet with city administrators, planners and the public, and develop several site-informed public art proposals that incorporate their research on materials, installation and potential impact.
A key aspect will be a public forum and demonstration project that seeks to engage the residents of Providence in a lively civic dialogue on public space, public art and creative development in the public realm.
In a companion Graphic Design studio, students will develop concepts for graphic systems that provide a clear identity and better wayfinding for the plaza.
When Landesman visited Rhode Island last February, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) took him on a tour of the state’s art and cultural institutions – many with RISD ties, such asAS220 and The Steel Yard. The two were in Providence to launch an NEA campaign calledArt Works – with an identity designed by RISD alumnusJeong-Hoon Kim MFA 08 GD – that demonstrates the role of the arts in creating jobs, vibrant communities and stimulating innovation.
This latest grant is expected to provide further evidence of the importance of the arts as a driver of innovation and of artists as vital members of their communities. Phillips notes that, “Our Town endorses, deepens and actively supports the roles of artists and designers as catalysts and leaders of community development, economic revitalization and urban vitality.”
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