We pass many works of art in our daily travels around town, but we don’t always know who the work is by, or realize that it is a part of “our” collection as citizens of Tucson. One simple resource to peruse is the public art collection on Tucson Pima Arts Council’s website (http://www.tucsonpimaartscouncil.org/programs/publicArt/collection.html) which lists and has photographs of many of the 135 public artworks in the public collection. The TPAC public art staff members Mary Ellen Wooten and Sally Krommes continue to be busy with new calls to artists for public art projects, but are also a great resource for artists looking to enter the fray. Full disclosure – I have a piece of public art in the TPAC collection, a set of four sculptures located at Golf Links and Houghton which I created in 2001.
Public art is a tough gig. It is a lot harder than it looks to come up with artwork that meets tight budgets, required public acceptance and is rewarding to the artist. I submitted for 20 projects, was a finalist for 10 and got 1 commission. I am pleased with the end result, but it has to be a special location/budget to get my attention now.
I encourage artists to volunteer to sit on a public art review panel as it is a great way to learn the process from the inside-out. You can see the dynamic of a panel first hand, watch artists present their proposals, and get to know the players in the public art world of Tucson. I have sat on three panels to date and am always reminded of the experience when I drive by an artwork I had a hand in selecting – its almost as good as being the artist of the work.