Laumeier Sculpture Park in Saint Louis and the Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF) in Denver announce the formation of a partnership for the purpose of developing national-level public art projects. The public art field is large and growing with many important artists and art institutions engaged in commissioning and conserving public art. In spite of the high level of public art activity, the field has evolved a very modest infrastructure and is largely lacking in the application of museum-level practices. In addition, the public art field has yet to realize the benefits of new technologies that can help the field address critical issues such as community education, conservation, and advocacy for both existing and new public art programs. Over the next ten years, Laumeier Sculpture Park and WESTAF will work to marshal resources and expertise to address these issues and thus strengthen the infrastructure of the public art field.
The partnership will initially focus on expanding the technology and community engagement activities related to the Public Art Archive™. The Archive is a highly searchable site that contains public art from across North America. The site uses the VRA core 4.0 data structure and authoritative descriptive terms from the Getty Art and Architecture Thesaurus. Doing so enables the sharing of the database with museums and libraries around the world for research, a quality that is not currently available in the public art sector. The Public Art Archive™, which is now rapidly filling with images and related text, is expected to hold images and data of about 90% of the public art in the United States in the next three years. The site can be found at PublicArtArchive.org.
Initially, WESTAF and Laumeier will work on ways to increase the breadth and depth of WESTAF’s Public Art Archive™ project to provide resources to the public art field. The partners will work on crowd sourcing data and images that can be used to expand the Archive™ database. In addition, the partners will develop technology services and public engagement activities that will contribute to the St. Louis Sculpture City 2014 program that will be hosted by Laumeier in April 2014. Future projects of the partnership will take a variety of forms but will focus on developing tools, services, and programs to introduce and support best practices in public art commissioning and conservation and related public engagement efforts.
Laumeier Sculpture Park, which was founded in 1977, is accredited by the American Association of Museums and is one of the nation’s premier outdoor sculpture parks. The park has a 35-year history of leading best practices in sculpture (both traditional and contemporary), as well as community engagement with art and the natural environment. The permanent collection includes works by Niki de Saint Phalle, Sol LeWitt, Vito Acconci, Mary Miss, and Mark di Suvero, among others.
The sculpture park is directed by Marilu Knode, who prior to joining Laumeier, served as associate director of future arts research at Arizona State University and senior curator of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. Knode also has an appointment as the Aronson Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at the University of Missouri, St. Louis.
Knode also serves as one of 13 senior advisors to the Public Art Archive™. Initial key tasks of the committee include: advising on the development of a public art-specific collections management tool that will be joined to the database; updating the PAA project team at WESTAF regarding emerging developments in the public art field; and informing the development of strategic partnerships to further the work of the project. Additional committee members include Jack Becker of Forecast Public Art, publisher of the Public Art Review magazine; Cher Kraus Knight, co-founder of the Public Art Dialogue; and Richard McCoy from the Indianapolis Museum of art, contributor to the WikiProject Public Art.
The WESTAF team brings to the partnership a 13-year history of serving the visual (and performing) arts through technology. In addition, WESTAF published % For Art: New Legislation Can Integrate Arts and Architecture in 1976, which has become an important seminal work in the field. As the public art field grows and expands, WESTAF will continue to support that growth. Anthony Radich, WESTAF’s director for the last 16 years, previously served as the executive director of the Missouri Arts Council in St. Louis and chaired the Denver Commission on Cultural Affairs. He also served as director of institutions that evolved into what are now the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art and the Nevada Museum of Art.