Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Visiting the future site of my sculptures

For my sculptures that will be part of the Electra C. Doren public library's renovation I proposed to create eight silhouette steel cutout sculptures for the fence railing of the reading terrace.

But when I wrote the proposal all I had was the descriptions in the ReImagining Works Request For Proposal (RFP) and architectural plans and elevations of the proposed library reading terrace to work from. Great information, but not really enough for what I needed. I'd never been to that branch of the library. I use the branch closer to my home and the Main branch downtown. So I had no mental image of the Electra C. Doren branch or the neighborhood or environment. I knew I was creating a site-specific piece of art and so I had to go to the site even though the terrace had not been built yet and all I was likely to see was an empty back yard.

After I saw the drawings in the RFP I had three different ideas to propose but I decided that I had to see the library to help me decide which of these three ideas was the best idea for the site. A guiding principle of ReImagining Works is that you can submit as many proposals as you like, but you should only submit proposals for work that, if you are chosen, you can actually deliver for the stated value of the commission and on time. Don't over commit, get chosen, and then not deliver. So I knew I was only going to put one proposal in. Besides I only had a month from RFP announcement to the proposal due date - hardly enough time for three proposals. After all, I do have a day-job :^). Going to the site was going to be a critical decision moment for me. Wow, was that an important thing do to.

Electra C. Doren branch library
Photo credit: Darren Kall

I immediately knew more than the drawings could convey. The space was much smaller than I imagined from the drawings. It is different to see 35 feet on a drawing and to actually see 35 feet. The drawings don't convey the lighting, the neighborhood, the surrounding trees (or lack there of), the views of the site from neighboring places, etc. All of these factored into my proposal design and decisions. Plus being there added motivation: I had to have this commission. I had to put something in this place - it was a great space that needed artwork.

Back yard of Electra C. Doren library
Photo credit: Darren Kall

One of my three ideas raised in it's importance because I saw that there were no big shade trees near the reading terrace since big trees had to be cut down to put the terrace in. And I knew that the trees in the planned landscaping would take a long time before they would cast sufficient shade for readers on the terrace. Another one of my ideas was eliminated on the spot. While it was a great idea, now that I was there, I didn't think it would be seen from outside the terrace and since the terrace was smaller than I thought there would not be enough angles to see the piece from on the terrace to show it at it's best. (I'll write more about why these ideas both got dropped in another posting.) And it was clear to me that the sculpture in the fence idea was very appropriate. The sculptures would be seen and prominent from anywhere in the terrace, from the sidewalk, and even across the side street where there was a busy parking lot for a store.

Side view of back yard of Electra C. Doren library
Photo credit: Darren Kall
In hindsight I now know that at that moment, standing there on the site, I had chosen to submit the sculptures for the fence idea. I didn't know I'd made the decision then because it took me a while to let go of the sculptural shade idea. It took learning how impractical my idea was by asking questions at an RFP artists informational  meeting held by Jane Black, Director of Engagement at The Dayton Art Institute and the project manager for ReImagining Works. (More about what I learned in another post.)

But after that onsite visit, every time I imagined the site,  I kept seeing the sculptures in the fence. 

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