The Capital Region may receive a new, funded art project — if Michael Bloomberg and company like the pitch.
Mayors from the area’s three largest cities on Thursday asked artists for imagination and innovation, and project ideas worthy of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge.
The challenge, announced Oct. 13, invites mayors of cities with populations over 30,000 to work with artists and arts organizations and develop plans to excite residents and attract tourists.
Bloomberg representatives will choose at least three cities to receive up to $1 million each over a two-year period for the temporary art displays. Applicants will need to demonstrate ability to create projects that strengthen public-private partnerships.
Bloomberg, the American business magnate, politician and philanthropist, is big fan of public art. He has said such displays bring new energy to cities and attract more visitors and economic activity.
“On this venture, we will be looking for projects that do two things — bring people together to experience public places in dynamic and transformative ways and, secondly, demonstrate close collaboration between artists, arts organizations and cities,” said Troy Mayor Lou Rosamilia during a news conference in Albany.
“We’re looking to have people come up with creative ideas. If it’s arts, if it’s sculpture, that’s up to the individual. It’s a public art challenge. … It’s giving them an opportunity to be creative in their own way and hopefully be able to submit that to us.”
The artist submission processes begin by visiting www.upstatecreative.org/2014-public-arts-challenge for materials and information.
The mayors expect Bloomberg and his people will have plenty of choices.
“We are entering into a highly competitive grant program,” said Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy. “There are 1,350 communities across the country that are eligible for this, and I anticipate a large number will apply. … We want to add to the level of excitement, a level that differentiates the Capital District.”
McCarthy also said the mayors’ first job is getting the word out to artists. The deadline is a tight one — artists must submit proposals by Nov. 17. Representatives from the mayors’ offices and the local arts community will then review all project ideas, and a single proposal will be chosen.
“We want the community and really the raw talent, that innovative thinking that is out there, to step forward and … create a project that makes us all proud,” McCarthy said.
As part of the program, the Bloomberg grant will cover development, execution and project-related expenditures, but will not fund 100 percent of project costs. According to the Bloomberg website, the grant is designed to provide catalytic funds as part of a “committed consortium of supporters.”
The mayors and members of the local art community are excited about the possibilities. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said someone could propose an artistic interpretation for State Street.
“People always complain about walking up State Street,” Sheehan said. “I love walking up State Street; it’s my little exercise every day. What I’ve often pondered is, what if you made it a journey that people didn’t realize they were walking up a hill? What could you do with public art to engage people as they’re walking up the hill? They’re being told a story, they’re engaged artistically in some way. It’s our creative community looking at that thoroughfare and saying, ‘What could we do to make this a different experience?’ ”
Chris Marblo, president of The Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy, said the challenge represents a chance for people to experience public art in a highly visible way. He said when he lived in New York City, there were plenty of public art projects on display.
“One was called Waterfalls. A guy built a public art project that was a waterfall in the East River,” Marblo said. “It was an interesting combination of art and technology.”
Sheehan was also sold on the team approach.
“There was a time when all three cities in this region might have gone off on their own paths and sought to put in their own applications,” she said. “Thanks to the leadership of our business community and our arts community, we’re catching on. We recognize that to win this challenge, we have a much stronger opportunity if we bring people together.”
A winning project may travel to all three cities.
“Our goal is to have it for the entire Capital Region, so the three cities will benefit from it,” McCarthy said.
Siobhan Kent, communications manager for the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region, believes Capital Region residents will see some new art, even if artists must work without Bloomberg funding.
“We’ve talked about it among the partners,” she said. “We’re going to get amazing submissions, so the project that we select, even if it’s not selected for the Bloomberg challenge grant, we’ll probably do it locally and just fund it locally.”
Following a Bloomberg review period, finalists will be selected and asked to submit a full proposal in February 2015. Project implementations must take place between June 2015 and May 2017.
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