CEC Artslink presents Publicly Creative: A Public Art Workshop. Public art is a fast-growing discipline with many unexplored opportunities for artists and communities. This workshop is a hands-on intensive introduction to the field, outlining resources, logistics, opportunities, and examples of successful collaborations. Recognizing artistic initiative as a valuable asset and a catalyst for a dialogue and transformation, we will explore how site-specific collaborations in varied cultural, geographic and political areas can influence business, social awareness and economic development. Encouraging close inspection of the particular issues faced by a specific New York community chosen by the participants, the workshop and the resulting public art work(s) will provide a unique platform for the participants and the public to explore and appropriate the city’s landscapes.

May 16, 2011

Curb Patches

Project title: Curb Patches

Site: Around the triangular Greenspace formed by Broome, Watts, and Thompson Streets in Soho.

This project is a kind of drawing, one that uses patches of blue color to highlight irregularities on the periphery of the street, in order to draw attention to the slowly shifting and organic nature of urban infrastructure and its effect on the streetscape. The blue patches focus on places there the curb is broken or not level (including corner easements).

The audience for this project is a person who walks to the Greenspace to sit and rest, perhaps to eat her lunch (which I have done many times, when I have had day jobs in the area). The official entrances to the Greenspace are on the west side of the park, at the corners of Broome and Thompson and Thompson and Watts. To get to the Greenspace from the east (from West Broadway), one must cross often-heavy traffic that feeds the Holland Tunnel. For me, and I assume for many others, the Greenspace is a shady, small oasis amid bustling Soho shoppers and tourists and speeding cars.

The project is primarily meant to be seen by someone within the Greenspace, whose peripheral view (if not blocked by cars) would take in a rough pattern of bright blue patches that draws a perimeter, like an intermittent stream surrounding the island of the Greenspace. Pedestrians in the immediate area may discover the patches of blue along the curbs on Broome and Watts and follow them, like crumbs on a trail, to the blue-highlighted easements on the corners opposite the entrances to the Greenspace.

About the experience:
I planned to execute the project on Sunday morning, when I thought the car traffic would be at its lowest ebb. Because of Sunday’s rainy forecast, I decided to use bright blue gaffers tape and not custom-mixed floor paint, in order to work more quickly and not be concerned about curing time. Because the gaffers tape would not adhere to wet concrete, I placed tape only on metal curbs. Using strips of tape rather than paint suggested a mending of the broken parts of the curb, not just drawing attention to them, which I like.

My studio artworks have long been influenced by materials and how they dictate variables in my working process. In a similar way, this project (my first in public) was influenced by the weather, available working time, materials acquired at short notice, and the conditions of the support surface (the concrete and metal curbs)—but I had much less control than I usually have in the studio. But I was excited by improvising and adjusting my plan on the spot, when I realized that I had only one color of tape that would stick to the curb—I had hoped to combine two shades of blue—and thus less tape than I thought I had.

I arrived at the site at 9:30 a.m., and I had about an hour and a half of working time before it started raining again. Pedestrian and road traffic became much heavier by 11 a.m. As I was working, most people ignored me. I did talk to two people, one guy who said, “There are so many interesting things in New York,” and another, named John, who liked what I was doing and took a picture of a tape patch; he lives a block away from the site and is interested in images of tape.

I got a little wet (and really sore from repeatedly bending over the edges of curbs—I must stretch better next time!), but overall I am happy with the result, given the limitations and compromises. With all of the rain, though, I have no idea how long the project will last.

Please share your thoughts on this project; any and all feedback is welcome. (I have many more photos, but I can't put them all here!)

It has been really inspiring to learn of everyone’s projects and experiences—I wish you all the best!

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