May 10, 2023 (Cape Cod, MA) – How can public art enhance community and create a greater sense of place? It’s a question the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod (AFCC) will seek to answer as part of a discussion on public art scheduled for Thursday, May 18, 4-6 pm, at the John F. Kennedy Museum in Hyannis.
The event, which is free of charge, will feature a panel of four experts familiar with the topic, including AFCC Artist of the Year Mark Adams of Truro; architect Mary-Ann Agresti, owner of The Design Initiative in Hyannis; Cambridge Arts Council Executive Director Jason Weeks; and Dr. Audrey Lopez, director and curator of public art for the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy in Boston.
To register for the event, click this link.
“With the breadth of public space on the Cape and our region tackling a number of significant infrastructure improvements, this is an important and timely conversation to have,” said AFCC Executive Director Julie Wake. “Art should play a significant role in how we think and interact with outdoor places. It can be an important catalyst for bringing people together, adding joy to our lives, and making the Cape a more welcoming place.”
The panel will cover a range of issues, including why public art is important to community; collaboration; public versus private spaces; and how to work with municipalities.
“Art brings joy and inspiration to a place. It brings hope and beauty and inspires wellness. It reminds us of where we have come from and engages us to ask where we want to go,” said Agresti, an artist whose work can be seen in front of the Hyannis Transportation Center as well as near Hyannis Harbor. “If we know as a community that we value art, then we know that we believe together we have enough resources to dedicate them to commemoration, inspiration, and education. We know we are investing in our future.”
Adams is another artist who seeks to find ways for the public to interact with his art. In 2021, he created an installation at the Cape Cod Museum of Art that allowed visitors to walk on enlarged copies of his original artwork, etched on nautical maps, placed on the floor.
“How does public art enable people to use a space and feel validated as members of a community?” Adams said. “When done right, it can be a space that invites you in.”
Cambridge has become a standard bearer for how a municipality can play an active role in making art an integral part of public projects. The city was the first in the Commonwealth to adopt a percent-for-art ordinance, passing the measure in 1979. “At its core, it legally requires the city to include and involve artists in how to build and grow the city,” said Weeks.
Over the past 44 years, the Arts Council has overseen the creation and development of more than 200 artworks found in a variety of locations in Cambridge, including youth and senior centers, schools, libraries, parks, plazas, and sidewalks.
“Every time the city is developing new physical buildings, renovating existing ones, or creating open space, it gives us an opportunity to implement the ordinance and direct funds to include artists in that work. It is a much different conversation when you bring artists to the table and have them work with other professions. It generates different ideas and leads to better outcomes,” Weeks said.
The result is something that ultimately benefits the community.
“My immediate thought is we need a lot more public art,” Weeks said. “To be able to come together and have conversations about how art impacts lives and reveals a sense of understanding and place, it is a common ground we can come to and have productive discussions around. And when these projects are finished, they give us peace, joy, and happiness, and we could use more of that.”
Dr. Lopez rounds out the panel. She currently leads the conservancy’s public art department, bringing innovative, contemporary art to Boston through free, temporary exhibitions and programs which engage communities in meaningful dialogue with art as the catalyst. She joined the conservancy in 2021, having previously worked as the public art and engagement curator at the Santa Barbara County Office of Arts & Culture.
In addition to her work at the Greenway Conservancy, she is the co-curator for Cosmovisión Indígena, an upcoming exhibition funded through The Getty Foundation’s 2024 Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles x Art x Science initiative.
She received her doctorate from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she taught classes on decolonizing language and resisting racialization and racism through public art and activism.
View more of the Arts Foundation’s upcoming Creative Exchange meetups here.
About the AFCC
Founded in 1987, the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod’s (AFCC) mission is to support, promote and celebrate the arts and culture of Cape Cod. It fulfills its mission by funding grants, fellowships, and scholarships; by increasing access to arts and culture in the region for all on Cape Cod; by advocating for more awareness on the impact the Cape’s creative economy has on our region and beyond; and by building a strong arts community network through membership and its Creative Exchange program.