Community Sidewalk Mural Featured at DownStreet Art
The Public Arts Commission on Wednesday approved the first of four proposed sidewalk murals commissioned by the Berkshire Cultural Resource Center.
Michelle Daly, director of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' Berkshire Cultural Resource Center, said one intent of the project was to provide some place-makers to outline the city's new cultural arts district.
"Thinking how we could begin placemaking for the cultural district was a creating a sidewalk mural project that is artist-led but with community painting," she said. "It would be similar to Art About Town efforts but instead of painting crosswalks, we would paint sidewalk sections. ... Our staff identified four possible locations and put out a call for artists."
DownStreet Art selected a bird pattern by Anthony Merino, an artist based in Adams who works mostly in ceramics and curating.
The tessellated, or interlocking, pattern of birds will be laid out and prepared by Merino and community members will be able to take a bird or section to paint during the Thursday event.
Daly said the preferred location for this mural is a 15-foot by 12-foot section of sidewalk at the corner of Main Street and Marshall Street.
The mural will be done in water-based paints largely because of the wider selection of colors and then covered with a sealant to protect and preserve it.
"Based on the longevity of our footprints, several years," she said in response to questions of how long it will last. The green footprints painted to lead people downtown for DownStreet Art were painted years ago but are still visible, if faint, in several areas.
Daly expected the entire project to take about a week from set up this Thursday to a final clearcoat by the following week, weather permitting. Merino will ensure the mural is complete and touched up where needed prior to the final coat.
Since the community artists will be given latitude on painting and lettering, the mural will also be reviewed to ensure there is only "creative expression within appropriate public boundaries," Daly said. Participants will also have to sign a waiver voiding their rights to the work and allowing them to be photographed.
"Our hope is this will be a long-term DownStreet Art project," she said. "We would invite another artist to do the next section. It would be a way to make the district boundaries more visible."
The project had already been cleared with the city and only required the Public Arts Commission's approval. The commission also spoke with Daly about complaints made about the BCRC's sound installation at the Mohawk Theater. The piece is currently not functioning because of recent vandalism but Daly said they would work to ameliorate the sound problems when it is working again.
The commission also signed off on the final changes for two types of contracts, one for individual artists and the other for organizations, laying out requirements such as liability insurance, "deaccessioning" rights and other related areas.
Commissioner Gail Sellers questioned if the contracts should also confirm or list a process for permitting through City Hall. Artists come to them for guidance, she said, and that should be in the contract.
"I don't think we can formalize a process that can't be formalized," Chairwoman Julia Dixon said because the commission wouldn't know exactly what was required. "The contract says they are responsible for all permitting and licensing."
The commission also agreed that it would not be a problem if an artist showed the same or similar work he or she had done elsewhere.
"We don't need it to be original," Dixon said. "I think it's OK to show like a sculpture that's been shown elsewhere but we did want something that guarantees an artist's work is their creation and not plagiarized."
Dixon also reported she had spoken to Mayor Thomas Bernard about filling the two empty spots on the commission. Bernard is expected to put forward the name of Derek Parker, a North Adams artist who is an associate professor at Landmark College in Vermont and manager of Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art's art fabrication shop. She told the commissioners if they had any suggestions for the second person to send them to the mayor.
Tags: arts commission, community art, DownStreet Art, murals,
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