Manhattan will soon see new art installations crop up on its 3rd Street corridor in what officials hope will become a regular exhibition.
City Commissioners Tuesday unanimously approved the selection and installation of artwork submitted as part of Manhattan’s inaugural juried public art contest, funded via a Greater Manhattan Community Foundation grant. Originally slated for installation in May, COVID-19 delayed the project to June.
“This has been a long time in the works,” says Reddi, who also proposed increasing the numbers of murals in Manhattan. “I’m really looking forward to seeing all of them.”
Looking to spruce up its streetscapes, Manhattan approved the contest and put out a call for sculptures and other pubic art installations last October. Officials saw it as a way to help draw more foot traffic into the business district.
The GMCF initially provided a $10,000 grant for the contest, though an additional $10,000 from the GMCF-affiliated Diehl Community Grant covers installation costs as well as a $1,500 honoraria to artists for leasing their work to Manhattan for nearly a year.
“This can help continue the momentum of public art that the private group INCITE MHK recently helped bring to the forefront with a mural on the wall of AJ’s Pizza,” says Arts and Humanities Advisory Board (AHAB) Chair Aaron Oleen. “They’re not official involved with this project, but it’s my understanding they’re happy to see another art project that will help bring public art to the citizens of Manhattan.”
Artists will be consulted if any maintenance is needed on the sculptures due to weather or other issues.
Dr. Susan Earle, curator of Lawrence’s Spencer Museum of Art, served as the juror for the contest. Earle judged works based on quality and design, artistic merit, craftsmanship and use of materials, scale, durability, safety and how appropriate it is for public display in family settings.
Recreation Director Randi Clifford says 39 artists from over a dozen states across the country submitted 61 entries, which Earle whittled down to 10 with 3 alternates and submitted to a seven person review committee that included Downtown business representation. Art selections and installation sites were then forwarded to the AHAB and Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, both of which recommended approval.
“Really pleased with the response we had this first year,” says Clifford. “And really, going into this [we didn’t]have a sense of what that would look like for us.”
Clifford says the 10 chosen pieces will range from Blue Earth Plaza to Osage Pocket Park in a “logical walking tour.” Installations range from depictions of fire tornadoes, an interactive sort-of colored magnifying glass as well as more abstract works.
“I think it’s actually a good time for something like this,” says Oleen. “In the face of many stressful things that we’re dealing with right now in our society and community. Not that those stressful things will go away or that some pretty artwork is going to solve some underlying problems and issues.”
Commissioner Mark Hateohl expressed support for using private dollars on public art, something Mayor Pro Tem Wynn Butler says has a history in Manhattan. Hatesohl also talked of expanding the exhibitions into additional parts of the city. Clifford says they are looking at that possibility as well as implementing a people’s vote to select works to purchase and display permanently.
“We decided not to tackle that in the first year just knowing that just getting the first exhibition underway there’s going to be a learning curve for our department.”
Additionally, he says they expect the process to go quicker in later iterations now that they’ve worked out the kinks.
Commissioner Linda Morse directed city staff to further research policies for permanent artwork acquisition and installations.
“I’m a supporter of public art,” says Morse. “I love seeing it in the other communities that I visit, it’s time for us to have public art here also.”
Butler also says the committee did a good job of working out any issues with installation locations as well as the character of the artwork itself.
“By looking at them, some people are going to maybe use the term interesting [to describe]the way they are constructed, but for sure I don’t think anybody could say controversial,” Butler says. “That’s excellent, because you avoided that one little thing that might have caused a problem.”
Installation is planned starting June 3 and continuing through July. De-installation and return of the work to respective artists is slated for mid-April of 2021.