Last week, I wrote about my perspective around the new public art selection for the water tower in Fargo.
But a topic like this has many facets and all kinds of angles to dissect. This week, I’m here to talk about public art and the value of having it made by artists outside of the community in which it resides.
One of the strongest arguments from critics (that wasn’t about the actual design) was about the fact that surely there must be local artists who could have submitted a design worthy of selection.
While I know that many local artists participated in various stages of the process, I can tell you that no local artist submitted a proposal for selection. One point I heard was that the deadline was too short for any local artists to get a submission put together. Others felt that the Call wasn’t broadly advertised enough and that it was too complicated.
I can’t comment on either of those points, since, again, The Arts Partnership was not part of this process.
But I can say that one of the ongoing challenges for The Arts Partnership that does relate to this is that we put out multiple Calls for Artists every month, and some of them just don’t get the kind of traction I would hope for in a community filled with such an abundance of artists. These are routinely paid Calls that often come with interesting additional perks and almost always with content we create for our blog, social media and newsletter. This is free, high quality content that highlights the artists and their art. There’s almost no price to put on content like that, and it’s mostly very hard to come by in places that don’t have a dedicated communications person working at their arts council.
Before I go further, let me take a minute to express some gratitude:
We so appreciate the many artists and organizations that consistently gather under our umbrella as Partners. We are grateful for everyone who participates in ArtWORKS, ChalkFest, CSA and Metro Arts Pass; who rents studios and participates in the markets at Aptitude and who apply for Individual Arts Partnership, Jade Presents Arts Partnership and City Arts Partnership grants. We are thankful for those who serve on our Board of Directors and that advertise with us.
All of those opportunities serve local artists and arts organizations, and nearly all of them support that art being made right here in the Metro. And that’s outstanding.
But don’t we also celebrate when local artists take advantage of and/or are given opportunities outside of our community? Don’t we love to read about an artist from here whose art was selected for a regional or national exhibition? Aren’t we proud when a local artist lands a role at the Guthrie, on Broadway or in Hollywood? Don’t we view a local artist differently when they say their art was part of a juried show in a larger market? What about the local musician who gets a gig in Chicago, Nashville or beyond? We want our local artists to be supported and celebrated here AND further afield if that’s what they desire.
So why are we so quick, then, to dismiss an outside artist taking advantage of a Call that, quite frankly, no local artist participated in? Again, this is not about the quality of the submission. This is about seeing an opportunity and pursuing it. Could a number of local artists have submitted work at least as good as the final selection? I’m here to say definitively yes. We have many excellent artists who call the Metro home. Would it have been great if a local artist’s work had been selected? Sure. But it’s hard to select work that isn’t submitted.
I’m not making excuses for the Fargo Arts and Culture Commission and this process–I don’t have an informed opinion on that. I do know that we all need to keep working to put together Calls for Artists that are fair, have a reasonable timeline and treat artists as the professionals they are and not as children entering a coloring contest.
Could this process have gone more smoothly? Had a longer timeline? Been more widely advertised? Possibly. But that’s not really the issue, from my vantage point. The issue is that we live in a community teeming with great artists, some of whom don’t always pay as much attention as they could or should to opportunities, both here and beyond our borders.
I’m not chastising the entire arts sector because many artists are taking full advantage of some really excellent opportunities. But to those who aren’t paying close enough attention, I encourage you to start reading our weekly newsletter where Calls are posted. Get in the habit of going to the Calls for Artists page on our website. And then get engaged with the various programs, opportunities and Calls that interest you.
And when your art is selected for another community, please let us at The Arts Partnership know. We’ll be so excited to celebrate and communicate about that win with you and the larger Metro, too.
Photo Caption: Dayna took this sadly not very clear photo of Breckenridge, MN, born artist Fritz Scholder’s art that is part of the collection at the state capital in Santa Fe, NM, because she was so excited to see a “local” artist’s work on display all the way away in New Mexico.