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Art In Public Places a step closer to finding artist for MACC

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 by Austin Monitor

The Art in Public Places panel has decided on the process for approving an artist for the AIPP project at the Mexican-American Cultural Center, a decision that probably took longer, and has been revised more, than anyone expected.

The budget for the current project – the preference of stakeholders is a mosaic – is  $51,000. That is significantly less than the approximately $130,000 that was originally budgeted when times were a bit more flush for the MACC. All city projects are expected to set aside 2 percent of their budgets for a public arts project.

If it seems like it’s taken a while to get this project under way, it has. AIPP had already been through the process of picking an artist once for the MACC, commissioning work for a shade structure, only to see the budget cut to pay for construction of the first phase of the multi-phase MACC.

“Everything was going smoothly when we were told that we needed to re-allocate the dollars provided for construction,” said AIPP Program Director Megan Crigger. “When the dollars were re-allocated, we had to re-evaluate our budget. We realized that we no longer could afford the shade structure and needed to start a new process to develop another public art project.”

That means what the AIPP considered last week – and there were thorny issues about residency and review panel composition and such – was a smaller budget that the first time the MACC AIPP project made its way through the panel.

Discussion at the AIPP meeting focused on a number of issues. Chair Risa Puleo, for instance, was sensitive to the artist selection process, encouraging the committee to expand the field to include Mexico.

While, theoretically, Puleo’s vision both matches the goals of the MACC and coincides with the wishes of some stakeholders, the panel decided the budget was too small to accommodate such travel. The final suggested compromise was to search only in Texas.

Since there is a clear desire among stakeholders for a mosaic piece, a compromise was suggested that a mosaic artist be added to the review panel. Because the AIPP panel is actually a panel of artists, such inclusion is important to the group. And, as was noted at the AIPP meeting, because it is a panel, it was not included in the boards and commissions revisions and does not function under recent code amendments.

Applications from potential artists are due Feb. 10. According to documents provided by staff, the artwork is intended to be located in the vestibule of the MACC, should deepen the understanding of the Mexican-American cultural arts, should be respectful of the building’s architecture, and should not be an obstruction to accessibility to the facility.

Additional discussion took place about who might be on the review panel, an issue that apparently still needs to be worked out by the committee. Names were thrown out and discussed, although panel members did not finalize ranking at the meeting.

Other points of discussion were a requirement for the artist to include a letter of intent to include community input and a suggestion that would encourage in-person interviews, if possible, for the three finalists.

According to preliminary project estimates, the artist may be making up to 15 visits to Austin to meet with stakeholders on the project.

AIPP link: http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/aipp/about.htm

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