Thursday, August 14, 2008

Public Art

This summer I applied for, interviewed for, and joined the Lafayette Public Art Committee. As a longtime resident of Lafayette this seemed a natural fit. It has been a very interesting experience for me, so far.

I applied for several reasons. A friend of mine, who was a member of the committee, told me of the opening. As an "artist" in Lafayette, I thought it might be a good for me to get more involved in the art community in our small town. So, I filled out the application and hoped for an interview. The application forced me to think about my views on art, describe my background in art, and discuss what I thought of public art. These were actually challenging questions, to me, to define art is personal and subjective to some extent, but public art is forces us to collectively define what is "good" and what real art.

The interview was also challenging. I have not interviewed for a job for many years. I was worried my art views would be questioned. Maybe I would have to really define "good art". Instead, the panel of five really wanted to know if I had some time to volunteer and if I could "play well with others." It was, to some extent, about the nuts and bolts of working in a committee and getting things done. I guess I fit the bill. Seven people interviewed for four positions on the committee.

Last night I attended orientation and first meeting. It was a great group of people and I am excited to work with them and get to know them in the coming year. Part of our orientation, however, was to learn about the government involvement with our committee. This part was the most surprising to me. (It has been a while since I had a public sector job.) Since we are an adjunct committee reporting to the Lafayette City Council, we fall under all the public government rules, which makes sense to me. We receive public funds and our actions have to be open to the public. This also makes sense to me. Here is how this translates: more than two people from the committee cannot have a conversation, via telephone, email or in person without announcing the "meeting" and posting an agenda 24 hours in advance. This is where I was shocked. So, if I run into two other members of the committee at my favorite coffee spot, we can not discuss anything about public art, I am not sure we can even discuss art.

During the rest of the meeting, we got down to business. I am excited about their goals and the current projects. As a small town, Lafayette has made it a goal to support art and put art in public places. It is nice to be part of a community with those goals. I would like to share the art in my town with you in the coming months. You can let me know what you think about public art. Oops, am I allowed to say that? I had better check!

(The above photo is of the Mary Miller Historic Mural located at the Lafayette Public Library. The mural is a mosaic tile installation, made up of 1 inch black, white and gray tiles to create the "photographic" depiction of the city founders and local coal miners.)