Creative Life in the Gateway Arts District
There’s an incredible array of talent on display through November 22nd in the Prince George’s County Gateway Arts District. Local artists Alonzo Davis and Margaret Boozer came across a brilliant idea while chatting in their Mount Rainier studios one day: wouldn’t it be interesting to exhibit artists’ public art concepts, whether accepted or rejected, somewhere in the Gateway Arts District. Moved by Boozer’s enthusiasm for the potential exhibition, Davis began approaching local arts organizations with the concept.
Davis began the conversation with Joe’s Movement Emporium Executive Director Brooke Kidd. Kidd put him in touch with Joe’s Visual Arts Coordinator Nehemiah Dixon III, and soon the project grew from a simple idea, into a masterful collaboration between artists and arts managers.
American University Arts Management Faculty, Anne L’Ecuyer, and experienced public art artist Valerie Theberge, joined Dixon and Davis for a breakfast meeting to discuss enhancing the show with an interactive panel discussion with some of the decision-makers behind public art pieces. L’Ecuyer secured the talented panel of arts administers: Liesel Fenner from Americans for the Arts as the moderator; Diane Ruggiero from Office of the Arts, City of Alexandria; Deirdre Ehlen from Arlington Cultural Affairs; Tonya Jordan from DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities; and Anne Delaney from Initiative for Public Art – Reston.
As coordinator and curator, respectively, Davis and Dixon managed a show of over 18 artists, a majority of which showed the process and concepts behind public art pieces that are currently realized in the DC-MD-VA area. The show includes everything from foam core boards, photos, sketches and mini mosaics – providing an intimate, behind the scenes glance at art pieces we often take for granted as a natural part of our urban landscape.
Davis and Dixon’s coordinated efforts brought forth PUBLIC ART CONCEPTS: An exhibition of Proposals. The opening night reception and panel was a huge success. Art lovers and art makers came together to better understand each other. In Davis’ own words, “The coming together of artists who usually work isolated in their respective studios/workspaces for which proposals are concepts for art to be made, not a finished product. The art work is a projection of what could be.” Dixon echoed, “It’s exciting to have so many nationally recognized artists on display at once.”
Art Lives Here believes increased public awareness of the artists and the stories behind commissions and contemporary pieces will bring renewed “buy-in” from the most important public art audience, local community members who live and interact with the work on a daily basis. However, based on our experiences of commissioning public art pieces, including murals by Melissa Glasser and John Grunwell on local businesses, we know there’s a certain balance between facilitating buy-in, as well as ensuring artistic integrity. An attempt to satisfy the wants of every individual need satisfies no one. When artistic vision is put first, however, and community needs considered, the resulting piece can be one that brings pleasure to all.