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The Art in Public Places Board received a flood of feedback on Los Alamos County’s Open Forum about the Historic Sculptures project and public art in general. But it was far from the first time members have heard ideas from community members.
“Often people will come up to board members or come up to me as a staff member and say, ‘Oh, I’ve got this great idea,’ or ‘I would like an opportunity to put something in front of the board so they can decide if they would like to add it to the public art collection,’” said APPB Staff Liaison Libby Carlsten. “Through the ongoing interface with the public that they realized that something was missing.”
In lieu of reviewing ideas or artwork on a piece-by-piece basis, APPB has spent the past year creating a mechanism for soliciting and evaluating proposals on a regular basis and has issued its first open call for art.
“What we’re trying to do is provide people with an opportunity to suggest ideas for the public art collection,” Carlsten said. “There are lots of great ideas out there, and what we really want to do is provide an opportunity for people to present them to the board.”
The instructions and application for submitting ideas (available on the APPB page at losalamosnm.us) may be intimidating to the lay person at first glance. The board wanted a process that would encourage the average citizen to flesh out their ideas or be specific enough for an artist to submit a particular piece of art.
“If they don’t have the level of detail suggested for the entry packet, then they can put something like ‘not applicable’ or ‘I don’t know,’” Carlsten said. “We don’t want anyone to get hung up or discouraged because it seems like it’s a lot of information.”
However, the board is looking for more than the casual suggestion tossed out in the grocery store.
“What we do want are well thought out ideas. The main thing is that we definitely want them to suggest a location or locations for the art,” Carlsten said. “We want people to have spent some time thinking about this.”
The proposal should include a description of why a public art piece is appropriate for a particular location.
On the Open Forum, people tossed out ideas like “art based on science.”
“We would need something more fleshed out like that. That’s just too broad. The board wouldn’t know where to go with that. It might end up completely contrary to what the person had in mind,” Carlsten said. “They could suggest something like the fractal art that they did a couple of years ago in relation to the Next Big Idea, computer graphics, computer generated art. So we really do want detail, things that some thought has gone into, not just a very nebulous, large idea.”
Carlsten suggested that reviewing the criteria the board will use to evaluate proposals — listed in the instructions — is a good place to start. Those criteria include:
• The inherent quality of the work will be given highest priority.
• All visual art forms will be considered. Ephemeral art, such performance art, does not qualify.
• The art should be appropriate in scale, material, form and content for the immediate, general, social and physical environment in which it is to be placed.
• APPB will consider more than esthetics. The art may serve to establish a focal point, terminate an area, modify, enhance or define specific spaces or establish identity.
• The overall program will strive for diversity in style, scale and media represented by many artists.
• The art must have an expected life of at least 20 years, and will be evaluated for structural and surface integrity, permanence, protection against vandalism, weathering and excessive maintenance and repair costs. Outdoor artwork must be durable enough to withstand Los Alamos weather in all seasons.
“They can flesh out their idea to meet as many of the criteria as possible, but we don’t want anyone to be discouraged if they don’t have a specific artist in mind or they don’t have a specific design for an interactive fountain,” Carlsten said. “It’s the idea and the location. That’s what we’re really looking for.”
All proposals must be submitted by May 17. The board will begin reviewing entries at its May 23 meeting (5:30 p.m. at Mesa Public Library). They are hoping to notify finalists by June 7, but Carlsten acknowledged that additional time may necessary if a large number of submissions are received. A second viewing is scheduled for APPB’s June 26 meeting.
Contact Libby Carlsten for additional information at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-8261.