Representatives from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and three local artist-led teams want Austin residents to decide which art projects they would like to see in their neighborhood.
“There’s a couple practical purposes for these conversations, one of which is like I said, we have money in the bank, and so we’re having conversations to figure out where does it go,” Lydia Ross, director of public art for DCASE, said at a public meeting held Oct. 24 as part of the city’s PARTY tour.
“And how do we really prioritize things that will have the most quality-of-life impact?”
The PARTY tour is the city’s strategy to gather community feedback on what public art should be funded as part of the Invest South/West initiative. Over the summer, the artist-led coalition held community events, pop-ups, dinners and conversations with residents to listen to their ideas for art projects in Austin.
After these conversations, Ross said they put together six proposals that match ideas to available public spaces.
Now, they want residents to select the proposals they like best and think should be funded.
Representatives from Borderless Studio, Port, Englewood Arts Collective, The Floating Museum and VS Creative Consulting were at last month’s meeting to share the results of their community research and present the six proposals.
The group found that light installations and murals were the top vote getters. Austin residents also are interested in art based on themes such as people and belonging, Black history and culture, wellness and resilience, and environment and infrastructure.
One of the six proposals is installing themed gateways and light poles along Soul City Corridor on Chicago Avenue. The Chicago Department of Transportation’s $21 million investment in the corridor already funds the creation of two gateways and customized light poles, Ross said.
The artist who will create these pieces has not been selected yet. Artists or designers who are interested in this project can submit their application until Nov. 13 at 11:59 p.m.
A few Austin residents attended the meeting, including local artist and founder of alt_Chicago Jordan Campbell. Campbell has participated in other city initiatives to engage the community, including the development of Soul City Corridor, he said.
Campbell asked if artists will work with the community to develop their art and designs before they’re installed. He also asked how artists will get information about Austin so they can truly understand the community and represent it in their art.
“You want to feel good about your own community. You wanna feel good about where you live,” Campbell said. “So how can we do that?”
Ross said community feedback will inform the city’s request for proposals – the application that artists must complete to be commissioned to create public art. Additionally, the request for proposals ask artists to propose a community engagement strategy, she said.
“Everything we’re doing now is front loading. We’re gathering as much data as we can to front load these RFP’s with as much information as possible,” said Janelle Nelson, co-founder of the Englewood Arts Collective.
Besides the request for proposals, the city will compile and share the results of the PARTY tour in a report that will be published by the end of the year, Ross said.
Campbell said DCASE needs to ensure the community voice is heard throughout the process. Other attendees wondered if community members will be able to vote on the art that will be installed in their community.
Participating artists said the intention is to ensure “it can’t end here, this isn’t the end of community engagement,” Nelson said.
Another listening session for Austin residents will take place on ADD DATE. More meetings will be held in neighborhoods that will also receive funding, such as Englewood, Auburn Gresham and Bronzeville. To register, visit the PARTY tour events calendar.
To learn more about the PARTY tour, visit iswpublicart.org.