Curator’s Statement


Because of the ineffable nature of the processes by which public art projects are realized, many exciting concepts for art works accessible to the public never come into being. This exhibition is intended to spotlight some of the particularly interesting works that might have been, and should be rekindled.The existence of art works in public places is an indication that a community cares about the lives of its citizens. Public art provides us, every day, with experiences beyond the mundane: intriguing, delighting, educating, even challenging us. It has the power to ignite our imaginations, to bring us into another plane of being, as we go about our routine tasks in the ordinary places of life and work. A public art program in a community promotes the creation of visual manifestations of our sense of place, of qualities in our environment, of the nature and history of our cultural traditions. The art exists for the people, accessible, not enshrouded in buildings to which one must pay an admission fee.

Why is there so little public art out there, to humanize the urban environment? As this exhibition attests, there is no shortage of rich creativity among artists in America, or of ideas for projects that might exist – and this exhibition is able to show only the tip of the iceberg. Many cities have percent for arts programs, but unfortunately Boston is not among them. It is sad to see the original master plan, “Permanent Arts Opportunities” for the Artery Arts Program (shown on the entrance wall to the show), and to realize how few of these locations will in fact have art (some will).

Many of the projects that “might have been” for Boston are shown as developed proposals in this exhibition. But Boston is far from alone in canceling, abandoning, or simply not commissioning public art projects. Proposals and developed designs are also shown from Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, New York, Texas, and other parts of our country. Every one of these projects should be realized in the world, should be given full-size tangible form. Why do they not exist? Some projects were abandoned or cancelled in mid design by the agencies which commissioned them. Some died from reallocation of funds (and why are funds always pulled first from art?) Some were ended for political reasons, such as changes in administration. Some died because the sites for which they are designed are not built. Some were abandoned because the scope of work presented to the artist was changed, so the artwork no longer satisfied. Some will not exist because they were competition proposals, and another artist was chosen by the selection committee – at least these represent the beginning of a sound process which may result in the eventual completion of public art at a site. But the concepts of these art works not chosen still deserve to exist in some form elsewhere.It is hoped that this exhibition of these few (among many) proposals will awaken a desire for their completion. Little of the contemporary built environment possesses any sense of the “essential quality of the place”. Do we citizens really want barest-bones-lowest-bidder engineering to create the urban fabric in which we spend most of our lives? We deserve art in our public spaces.

Leila Daw, Curator
5/15/2003