Friday, January 8, 2010


When not playing with the winds we are often inside our studio environment doing works that sometimes confound us and keep us from sleeping. Usually this happens when we have a particular public art deadline for a proposal. Maybe I need to explain this process a bit more.

We are public artists both in our kite works and our commissioned aerial sculpture works. The process goes something like this… Step one is scouring the internet calls for art throughout the country. We get announcements through the public 1% for Art programs that are generally government run agencies in all of the states and many cities in the US. A promising project may be a great architectural space or the art committee may even be asking for aerial sculpture in particular for either inside a large atrium space or an outdoor kinetic work. We then review the requirements for applying by sending in images of what we’ve done, resumes, a description of how we work and interest in the project and then send it off. This part is probably the simplest part of the public art process.

Next comes the anticipation, the waiting, the wondering if they forgot us. Nine times out of ten a couple months fly by and we forget about which ones we have applied for. “It’s the economy” we tell ourselves, or, “Maybe we should email them to see if they got our application”. Then the day after we get a polite letter in the mail saying, “Thank you for your application… Many artists applied and, unfortunately you were not chosen in the finalist phase”. The letter then gets added to our rejections file which, over the time period of close to twenty eight years has gotten quite thick.

But, like fishing, there are many casts into the blue beyond and occasionally we do catch one or two. The letter begins something like, ”Thank you for applying. The art committee has convened and has chosen you as one of three (or seven, or twelve) finalists for the project”. This is followed by the both of us cheering and dancing about the room. Then the details are read about the period of time we will have for developing the idea. This is always much too short a time given the processes involved in coming up with a genious idea and crafting it into a bona fide proposal presentation.

Generally we have a month to pull everything together. This means careful researching of the institution or business, finding out appropriate themes, pouring over the architectural plans supplied by the architect, hours and days on the computer making a 3D computer model of the space to familiarize ourselves with the building or area, sketching out the “wild and wacky” ideas, refining to forty other ideas, drawing some more until it enters our dreams, going through night sweats and technical tremors. This is the most difficult stage. Sometimes whole sketchbooks are filled and then we return to our first page idea and decide that’s the best one. Other times it is just plain long and hard work contained in a process I like to call “drawing from the deep well”.

For many years this process followed the building of a physical model of the space. These were generally finely detailed models made for the proposal presentation. The architectural space often defines what can go into it. B
y constructing a model early in the process and spending a lot of time with it, the vision often comes just at the point of desperation. Some call it the ‘Ah-Ha!’- moment. We just call it the “Quick! Get it into the model …. We’re presenting next week!”- dash.

What follows is a generally well rehearsed dance that verges on frenzy. We gather and research the materials for the proposal, figure out the processes, construction, how we get it to the site, how it gets installed, all the costs are calculated into a detailed budgeting for the project, in a word, all the nuts and bolts. These are plugged into our overall plan, detailed drawings are made along with computer renderings using photos of the model.

The physical models have proven to be a necessary step in the presentation of our ideas. Being visual artists we tend to like showing the ideas directly. We call this the “Doll House” effect. Not only are they useful for us in developing a concept but they are invaluable in presenting our ideas to others. The miniature version speaks volumes above the pages of descriptions that are written describing our design intent, narrative descriptions and processes. And, of course, traveling with a large scale architectural model can involve some difficult maneuvers through airports.

We have constructed our models in hotel rooms the night before a presentation after arriving. We have shipped them by FedEx and prayed that they would arrive in time for our presentation. We have done international projects that were proposed using primarily emailed photos directly from our model. We have never (so far!) tripped and dropped our model at the doorway to the presentation room.

What happens in the proposal presentation room is strictly confidential and not for discussion here but there is a lot of hand wringing before hand. Often we wait outside the closed presentation room while another finalist is presenting their proposal. Butterflies tie knots in our stomachs as we wait. And after our presentation is over and all the questions are answered we leave the room with the art committee thanking us for our presentation and ushering in the next artist who is sitting outside with presentation boards, model and that familiar nervous look.

We traveled to Jacksonville, Florida last month, presenting for a project for the Jacksonville Airport there. We have close to seventy large public art projects we have won commissions for over the years. They are in libraries, universities, corporate headquarters, rec centers, schools and health care facilities. We have applied for maybe a couple dozen airport commissions. We figured it would be a good match with us doing aerial inspired works based on kites and using air as a theme and medium for our art. Let’s just say we have added to our rejection pile and have not received any positive notice from the airport arts commissions that decide on these matters. Then, a couple days after returning to Colorado we received an email ….starting with “Congratulations, you have been selected” from the Jacksonville Airport Arts Commission….followed immediately by our little dance for joy around the room and then our “Oh No!” dance….”Now we have to make it!”

Some proposal drawings and models for the connector bridge to the gates at the Jacksonville International Airport.

The project is set to be installed November 2010. Fly through there and see "Air Bridges".

1 comment:

Bear said...

Looks like kites - funny thing!