SESSION 2 Q&A - answered by Jennifer Marman and Daniel Borins (JM & DB) after the live event by email
What was your craziest idea that wasn’t chosen and why?
JM & DB: We have plenty of crazy ideas, like any other artist, and often these concepts are not chosen. For example, in one case, in a public art competition for the City of Toronto, we proposed an obstacle course as a sculpture. The project title was: Berczerk. The visual reference referred to dog agility courses, but at human scale. The location was for Berczy Park, Toronto, where a “Dog Fountain”, designed by Claude Cormier, was to be installed in Baroque style. Our rationale was that Berczerk would be a playful companion gesture to the fountain, providing interaction, and that it would attract a lot of fun and attention.
We cannot say how or why a jury makes a decision. Artists usually are not provided with a rationale for the jury selection process.
Hi there. Great presentation! To the public artists, how did you find these opportunities? Which sources do you use online and others?
Beautiful works! How did the artist team meet? Do they always work together? Do they all have solo careers/jobs/teaching?
JM & DB: Jennifer and Daniel met at OCAD around the year 2000 and started a collaborative studio practice at that time. Through mutual friends, they met James at an art opening around the year 2010. Jennifer and Daniel are full-time artists based in Toronto. James is a founding partner at the architectural firm DCSK in London, UK. When a large public art opportunity arises, they often choose to work together.
At what point do the artists involve the fabricators, before or after winning the bid?
JM & DB: Usually the artist team spends several weeks in concept development. When a few concepts are narrowed down and rough renders produced, fabricators are consulted. Artists should always meet with fabricators prior to finalizing a submission in order to confirm the proposal can be achieved within the commissioning budget. Moreover, fabrication quotes are often required as part of the submission proposal. If a team does not have accurate budget estimates, they might risk either losing the bid, or encountering difficulties realizing the project within the budget. Therefore, it is imperative for the artist to source quotes that suppliers, fabricators, and contractors will honour.
What kind of documentation do you provide when a piece is included in a city collection? Do you think about any documentation that should be considered?
JM & DB: With increasing frequency, photographic documentation of the completed artwork is part of the public artist's scope and outlined in the contract agreement. It is also common practice to document the fabrication process in order to provide the client with progress reports and allow them to promote on social media. Final documentation is performed by a professional photographer and supplied in high-resolution digital format. For overhead shots, drones may be used. Sometimes an artist is asked to provide video documentation as well. Final documentation should aim to capture the overall project from multiple vantage points, its scale and relationship with the surrounding environment, along with close up shots showing fine details. To achieve the desired results, the artist will work closely with the photographer.
In addition to documentation, artists are always expected to provide a comprehensive maintenance package that includes things like blueprints, shop drawings, engineering stamps, material spec sheets, samples, and paints etc.
To what extent did the creative briefs from clients, and the creative teams, consider the relationship to the Indigenous heritage of the land?
(The complete question - Without implying any disrespect to these beautiful projects: These sessions start with a territorial land acknowledgement, and all of these public art projects are sited on land. To what extent did the creative briefs from clients, and the creative teams, consider the relationship to the Indigenous heritage of the land? In Canada we are in a moment of great reckoning, following the Truth and Reconciliation Report of 2015, with Calls to Action regarding art, and Principles of Truth and Reconciliation. )
JM & DB: Reconciliation is an important ideal and an ongoing dialogue.
For open calls, short-listed artists often represent a range of diverse backgrounds. There are also a growing number of commissions in Toronto and across the country that specifically call for Indigenous artists and/or curators.
In terms of the projects that we presented in the symposium, two expressed place and ecological focus. In another case, the project expressed an infrastructure as art and architecture focus.
The role of the artist is to take all conditions and concerns surrounding a site into consideration, to be creative, and to do the best possible job of producing a project that is responsive to the terms of reference outlined in a commission opportunity.
What range of fees do you request for preliminary drawings, initial conversations with fabricators, consultants etc., to prepare an initial project description and budget for the reviewing committee?
(The complete question - I’d be interested in knowing how you determine line item pricing for an initial project proposal (knowing that other folks are submitting, and you may not be chosen, but each artist/group should be paid for their initial time and energy in submitting the proposal). In other words, what range of fees do you request for preliminary drawings, initial conversations with fabricators, consultants etc., to prepare an initial project description and budget for the reviewing committee?)
JM & DB: No single commission is ever the same. Each project is different.
As you suggest, the submission process requires considerable time and resources, in order to develop a concept, assess fabrication feasibility, and estimate budgets and timelines. At the proposal stage, the artist is working to present a winning concept, but at the same time does not want to over-promise.
Typically, the proposal fee is set by the commissioning agency and paid to artist teams upon submission of a fully developed proposal. Artists are incentivized because they want to win the commission. However, the proposal fee does not reflect the time and resources that go into the submission process. This is an unfortunate aspect of the public art, architecture, landscape architecture, creative advertising, publishing, music worlds, etc.
Artists are provided with a flat fee for their proposal work. The fee is outlined in the competition literature and is not open to negotiation. Typically there are five short-listed artists, equating to a 20% chance of receiving the commission.
Beautiful work and great discussion! These projects deal with and are in the public realm. At what stage of the design and planning process do you typically engage or interface with the communities that your projects impact?
JM & DB: It is best practice for a commissioning agency to have several engagement sessions with communities far in advance of a call for artists. It is important that the community is both informed and can provide feedback
Another good practice is for the community to have the opportunity to see final proposals before they are juried in order to offer their feedback. Often the jury includes members from the local community.
I’m intrigued by the notion of the public artist as a Bridge—bridging spaces, bridging communities, bridging bureaucracies, bridging industries
(The complete question - I’m intrigued by the notion of the public artist as a Bridge—bridging spaces, bridging communities, bridging bureaucracies, bridging industries—I think it is interesting that each of the projects presented here are also physical bridges / linking passageways, and also metaphoric representations of the working process—perhaps that is too poetic, but an observation. Great presentation!)
JM & DB: What you say certainly is a goal for us. Providing a public artwork that responds to the needs of a neighbourhood or larger community is a priority in our creative development and final productions. In many ways public art is the bridge toward a goal of quality of life. The more we all focus on making cities livable, the better off we are.
Is the artist responsible for future conservation of the work? Ex: the neon at Yorkdale subway station no longer working.
JM & DB: Municipalities all have conservators and programs by which they manage and maintain public art. They may call on the artist for feedback or assistance, but apart from a predetermined warranty period, the artist is not responsible for maintenance or restoration. In the case of Michael Hayden’s Arc-en-ciel (1978) at Yorkdale, the neon of the original installation was a terminal material (no pun intended). However, now that LED tube lights exist, the TTC should consider remounting the artwork. In the case of the Glencairn subway station, Rita Letendre’s Joy was recently successfully remounted.
When you respond to an RFQ, are you already including your architect and fabricator team as part of your qualifications, or does that come after you get selected?
JM & DB: If a project is large and requires a lot of architectural drawing and site integration considerations, a team with both an artist and architect at the competition stage makes sense. In some cases, a landscape architect is involved at the competition stage as well. The rule of thumb is that the design is ninety percent finished at the competition presentation stage. A fabricator is consulted for pricing and build information at the competition stage; but is usually retained after the commission is received.
Thank you! Very curious to get an idea of how much money would need to be raised to realize something like this? Not necessarily an exact figure, but a general idea :)
JM & DB: Budgets are established by the commissioning agency. A small project is under 100k. A medium project is under 250k. A large project is in the 250k to 600k range. And a very large project is in the 600k to 2m range.
What happens when the neighbours want the Art removed?
JM & DB: Over the past 50 years plus, municipalities have realized that outreach, engagement, and feedback is an important part of the public art process (and in all civil matters). This ensures communities have input that informs the public art process.
Unfortunately, in the rare instance where a work of art is disliked, negative sentiments can be amplified by the press. Every politician knows that negative messaging can often drown out positive messaging.
Recently, some groups have raised concerns about historical monuments, advocating for their removal. Municipalities are taking these concerns seriously and evaluating them in the context of present, past, and future generations.
In all three examples that we discussed, the spaces in which the work was installed was either derelict, misused, or badly in need of human-scale design solutions. As a result, the public reception was positive.
SESSION 3 Q&A - answered by Shirley Levy (SL) and Carolyn Bowen (CB) after the live event by email
Can you kindly reference that quote again? As an artist who has long been working to make visible the invisible - it would be very useful.
CB: “I often wonder when public art will get beyond its thingness. Public Art is a hybrid field—it bridges the civic and the personal, the city with the gallery, connects politicians to artists, and brings the world into our backyard. And we plug these gaps with objects. Our most basic expectations of public art are to achieve a monument, a site, or an artwork recognizable as a thing. If that’s our manual, it is nearly impossible to put anything called art in public without it looking like public art. Yet we know happiness comes not through things, but through experience. And civic pride is less a product of monuments than a building up of emotions about place—what it feels like to experience a city, is the city alive, urgent, inexpressibly itself? Is it a place where I fell in love or one could fall in love? For a place, earning there-ness is less about having things to see, than having experiences to give, and keep giving…” (Hesse McGraw, 2017. Plus, A Succession Plan for Watershed +, The City of Calgary)
When you say artists are “embedded”—if this were a designers’ project, it would entail more ownership vs “embedded ness”?
SL: not sure what the question is exactly so I’m not sure I’m answering correctly, but if this were a designer in a contractual work-for-hire situation, there might be time devoted to understanding the client, but the focus would be more on delivering the product, which I imagine would then be owned by the client. With PAIR, the focus is on developing a deep understanding between artist and agency, to collaboratively develop a work.
CB: Any public art work takes the expertise of different disciplines, apart from the artist, either within a studio or out with it, be it in flow dynamics, foundation design, or native plant species. This is especially true for public artwork engaged in the complex systems of the watershed, storm, drinking and sanitary systems, nobody is a subject matter expert in all of these fields, and so one of the skills artists require to work in an embedded ways is, yes to lead a vision, but equally importantly to listen and draw upon and engage the insight, experience and expertise of others from conception to realization. Contrary to being a sacrifice for artists it allows the work they make in collaboration to be more relevant, more engaged in the specifics of the subject and context, more long lasting and have more resonance for the public. Artists who have worked with us in Utilities and Environmental Protection (UEP) at The City of Calgary, feel ownership of the works they have made while embedded - this is partly because we took great care in establishing the framework and process of how the artist will be embedded and also to appoint the right artist with the right opportunity, where the opportunity will be core to their practice. One of the exciting benefits is that staff and contributing consultants also feel greatly invested and yes ‘ownership’ of the works also, I think most folks who work on these projects feel they have contributed something and can see their hand in the outcome, we have seen that we not only get a new public artwork but the influence of working with artists and having them embedded has positive ripple effects within the culture of our organization.
How did you resolve conflicts when working with different municipalities? How did you attain buy-in to the projects from departments who did not initially see the value in working with artists?
SL: I think PAIR has so far succeeded in most cases (success = artist and agency working well together to create a work that satisfies the various needs of stakeholders) because it is not imposed on anyone. Agencies decide they want to participate, demonstrate in an application to us why they are interested and what is their level of commitment, and then may be accepted to the program. If there is resistance coming from within an agency that is already in the program, it is the responsibility of DCLA, the artist, and the agency’s staff working on the project to understand and try to break through it.
CB: One of the strengths of the program was establishing at the outset a Core Group of advisors predominantly from within Utilities and Environmental Protection (UEP) at The City of Calgary but also from across the City in different business units. The Core Group served multiple functions, they suggested potential projects, they offered advice and insights, they updated on what was taking place, new initiatives, changes in approach or directions elsewhere within the City and provincially, they also offered reflections on artist concepts and proposals and they helped suggest connections or people who should be engaged. It takes a little more time but again investing the time to learn, talking with colleagues from other business units, hearing their experiences and concerns, drawing them into the project, more often than not made the project easier, better, and helped us navigate around future challenges.
We are very fortunate in UEP that people have a great passion for the work that they do, when they experience that artists are equally passionate, dedicated and fascinated in the same area of work it is fascinating to experience the influence two distinctly different professions can have on each other.
Artists are embedded in the community of our colleagues at UEP before any other, and so we are conscious of establishing and maintaining this relationship form the outset, of course people come to things with expectations, assumptions and sometimes hesitations, so we try to be very open and share, through lunch and learns or talks and introductions, being visible and equally artists participating in the life of the Water Utility ‘family’, essentially it is about forming relationships and meeting people where they are, sharing the journey not just the result, understanding this takes time, and taking this time.
This is a fantastic program and we are looking at models for the City of Toronto. Some of these projects would ideally have a duration of one year. What affordance is there for that?
(The complete question - This is a fantastic program and we are looking at models for the City of Toronto. Some of these projects would ideally have a duration of one year. What affordance is there for that? Sometimes, returning to the before state, when there has been positive change, can be negative. Is there a way of extracting ongoing change, if not the artwork?)
CB: Change is challenging for all of us, asking people to do something different, beyond their other responsibilities is unsettling and asks something extra of people, once this has been asked and given there is a relationship and trust established and this needs to be maintained, they have invested something of themselves, they are part of your family of folks who have seen what art projects can achieve, they are your ambassadors and hopefully your friends. It may not be possible to work with that business unit again for some time or ever again, it's helpful to be open about that from the outset, either way keeping them in the loop, checking in on them and their work, inviting them to things, helps maintain the relationship. and the simple things we all appreciate like thank you letters, named acknowledgement in websites, books, awards etc. recognizing their investment was valued and was meaningful.
SESSION 4 Q&A - answered by Ellen Blumenstein (EB) after the live event by email
Is 'good' art good because it is acceptable and unchallenging to the community? Is there a role for challenging public art that critiques the systems of power that fund them?
EB: Not sure if I understand the question correctly. If it is about doing projects that ‘bite the hand that feeds you’ – I am generally skeptical of this approach. For one, the audience addressed by these kinds of projects is most often the art community (critical left), which forms only a small part of the public which is supposedly included. They also tend to be self-assuring, meaning they repeat /reaffirm an attitude that is clear from the start – which is our own.
Actually, decision makers oftentimes have learned that a ‘critique’-project is not endangering their positions, because its logic includes them as the ones ‘being open to being critiqued’; in the end, nothing changes and everyone involved or addressed feels better, but stays exactly where they were before.
I therefore strongly opt for approaches which cross these positions and add a new perspective to the fabric, and which suggest ways of seeing or interpreting a situation in a way that might be difficult for everyone, including ourselves. In my experience these projects are much more difficult to implement, because other than with ‘critical’ projects in a narrow sense, nobody knows the outcome.
What are the biggest challenges with planning public art for a city? And how do you create the conditions for public art throughout a city without prescribing what that art will be?
EB: My preliminary answer is implicitly inherent in this question: Each situation and project are different, so the biggest challenge is that there is no ONE way of making art possible within the public realm. What one (i.e., people like me) can do is to create an environment of trust, openness to letting go of control, and to pre-establish slim procedures which involve all relevant stakeholders to come to decisions everybody can live with. The important task on the latter will be, though, that administrative and security concerns have the same relevance as content arguments and are assessed equally – with content taking the lead wherever possible.
Do you think the involvement of an art conservator should be considered from the early stage of the public art plan? If so, why is it that art conservators are not part of the planning team?
EB: This is a very interesting question! Absolutely yes! We realized even within the short time period of our work that the issue of preservation is completely underestimated and always forgotten in the planning. We have learned it the hard way by having to find ad hoc strategies to repair/preserve the projects we produced even within a short period of presentation (up to 2 years so far). My – very simple – guess is that art conservators are not part of the planning because they cost additional money which nobody has, so the denial goes on until a concrete damage has to be dealt with. Hamburg created a plan for an institute for art in public space, which is much delayed due to corona, but one of the main tasks of that institute is the preservation of all art works in public possession. How that is supposed to be implemented, I don’t know, though.
SESSION 5 Q&A - answered by Disart after the live event by email
I can see that these structures would dramatically alter the relationship between performer and audience. How has this affected the kinds of performances that have taken place? How has this affected the kind of art that is made in these locations?
Disart: This is a great observation, and a great question. Thank you! As with any outdoor theater, there is a certain amount of intimacy with all of the performances. So the music, theater, and art performances that happened on the stage felt very immediate, much like they would have during theater in the round would have during Shakespeare’s time. In terms of the effect? Overall, all of the events that happened on the structure felt very communal, shared, co-created between artist and audience.
How did he (all people) react to the conversations about what are the rights/ethics of disabled people? Did he worry only about Downs’ people, or also other disabled people?
Disart: The landowner’s concerns about the performance had all to do with people with down syndrome performing what he saw as “sexually explicit” material. We disagreed with him on many levels obviously. First of all, drag is not about sexuality per se, but about expression of a marginalized identity, and a reclaiming of personhood through performance. Unfortunately he did not attend the session on rights/ethics of disabled people. If he would have attended he would have met powerful disabled activists and activists who offered deep dives into the topics of self-actualization.
Can you think of public artworks that you’ve seen or experienced that have been both successfully accessible, and “taken your breath away”?
Disart: There are so many public works that take into account the experiences of disabled people. A striking example is millennium Park in Chicago, Illinois – the experiences of this park are the same for anyone who visits because of flat surfaces, accessible walkways, and proper signage.
Thank you so much for today’s talk and the enriching seminar. How would you approach a sculpture that conceptually cannot be changed to be accessible to all? In the context of Public Art, would you simply not show it?
(The complete question - Thank you so much for today’s talk and the enriching seminar. How would you approach a sculpture that conceptually cannot be changed to be accessible to all? In the context of Public Art, would you simply not show it? A specific example is Terminal by Karolina Halatek which the shape, a deliberately fully lit circular tunnel, embodies amongst other things the voyage to the Afterworld as it is described by many that went through a near-death experience. The circle [circle of life, perfect shape, no direction/orientation based on the perimeter itself etc.] is an important part of the work.)
Disart: Accessibility is a process rather than a product, so as you are already assuming, there are many examples of public art/sculpture that simply cannot account for the experiences of disabled people. If we were working with clients on this question, we would actively pursue creative solutions to this problem. Digital mapping, virtual-reality tours, audio descriptive tours, etc. might be useful. However, for any new construction we would strongly encourage complete accessibility.
I try to keep my work open and inclusive, citing Chris that access is as much as part of the process (relational) as the art.
( The complete question - Hi, my name is thom sokoloski. First an apology for joining late. You may or may not know of my temporaral landscape and sculptural public participatory artworks. If so, free to check out https://linktr.ee/thomsokoloski - Having worked with large groups of intellectually, physically and/or sensorially disabled, quarantined, prisoners, terminally ill, etc. I try to keep my work open and inclusive, citing Chris that access is as much as part of the process (relational) as the art. I am beginning to think, now with the temporary end of live performance, how the actual historic public in street art actually brought agency to the situation where the art was being presented. I do believe now that the public today with no freedom to experience live art may in fact take on a new kind of agency to secure all performers. Thoughts? )
Disart: Thom, thank you so much for your question. Your work is very challenging, and quite wonderful. Thanks for sharing. We agree 100% that the last eight months have changed the live art game, including public sculptures. But, like you suggest, digital communication, virtual education, and the like, are perhaps indications that Change is on the way. Some will fight against this change, no doubt. But others, like many in the disabled community, will embrace these changes because they are finally allowed participation.
SESSION 8 Q&A - answered by Rina Greer (RG) and Ilana Altman (IA) after the live event by email
For Ilana, with respect to programming..what surprised you most about The Bentway Space…what were/are the biggest programming challenges/currencies?
IA: I’m continually surprised by site and the way artists choose to interpret and animate it. Each artist we work with allows us to see the space in new ways.
One of the early surprises was that, despite its monumental scale, the Bentway can feel very intimate and the work we present needs to continually balance those two scales.
Michael Awad produced a 300-foot long photograph of the Gardiner titled The Gardiner Expressway, Lakeshore Boulevard for our If, But, What If? exhibition. The installation was monumental in length but only 4.5 in high, which forced visitors to slow their pace and get up close to take in the work as they traversed the boardwalk where it was installed. It was a wonderful example of how a piece can effectively address the many scales of the Bentway.
What is a typical budget for these projects? What does it take to realize this kind of ongoing project?
RG: The fee to artists increased over the years as cost of living increased. In 2011, and for at least 5 years prior to that, artists received $20,000 which covered a modest fee and all costs related to materials, production of artwork, transportation and installation and removal at the end of the exhibition. Additionally, the TSG carried insurance during installation period and for the duration of work on display. They also paid for production of all print materials, mailings, openings, etc.
The TSG is an inspiration for me to try to do a project here in Pouch Cove, Newfoundland.
(The complete question - The TSG is an inspiration for me to try to do a project here in Pouch Cove, Newfoundland. Working with the Town of Pouch Cove and funding from Memorial University, our community will see the first temporary public sculpture installed in the spring of 2021. The challenge now is how to sustain the project and to continue introducing new works to the public every 12 months! )
RG: Congrats and good luck —perhaps there are ways to connect to collectors out there who may be interested in funding — remember, it was a collector whose passion created the TSG!
How do you define artistic excellence?
RG: For me, the artwork has to have complexity and mystery and qualities that compels the work to linger in memory.