Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Civic Art: A Morning Before Houston City Council

Good morning Mayor Parker, members of city council, and Houstonians here at city hall today.

This year, I have the privilege of participating in a unique civic art project. Unique because civic art has never been created for the City of Houston in quite the way it’s happening now.

In this project, twelve artists, representatives from the city, the architects and the building contractor are working collaboratively. We are all in the loop, all dealing directly with a very public space and with our city’s aspirations to make the Houston Permitting Center at 1002 Washington Ave. a model of sustainability and an example of the city’s green philosophy.

Nine months ago, I was selected by the city and Houston Arts Alliance to serve as lead artist on the building team for this project.

My instructions were clear. Select a team of artists who will create art that is urban and dynamic, that reflects the cultural diversity of this great city. Make sure that the art reveals the work that goes on inside the building and reflects the city’s engagement with green building practices, recycling and reuse. Plan on art that will engage the public and invite their participatio. And by the way, stay on budget and finish the work on time.

So why is civic art important in a public facility like the Houston Permitting Center?

It’s important because thousands of folks will have business in that building and the art there will be integral to the way the building functions. The art will tout the city’s commitment to ‘green’ and will celebrate and mirror Houston’s diversity. This civic art will give back to every person who enters or works in the building.

On a broader level, civic art helps define who we are and what we aspire to. It can embody civic pride and give us a sense of place in very complicated urban space.

Complicated urban space is like a big pot of soup, perhaps a soup with flavors hard to pin down. Add some salt and now, you’ve got something. Really good.

Civic art is like salt. Think about it.

Thank you very much.