Public art is on the city agenda
by Elizabeth Ruiz
Posted on March 9, 2009
To those involved in public art, the medium can be regarded as a profound form of civic expression. “Public art has the power to energize our public spaces, to promote awareness, and it kind of adds value to the project,” says Pat Dalbin, who manages the Public Art Program for the City of El Paso.
If public art enthusiasts were to scan their eyes over the upcoming City Council meeting agenda, they might spot a couple of items that would pique their interest.
It includes mention of two public art projects, one at the airport expansion and the other at the Sun Metro terminal on Third and Santa Fe. The items are 3J and 3K on the agenda. [link]
One of the projects will be funded through one percent of the funds used for the Downtown terminal at $75,000, while the airport project will come from two percent of the cost of the airport expansion at $90,000.
The projects are cited in the agenda to as a way to “encourage integration of art into the architecture of municipal structures for the City of El Paso."
New Mexico artists Saxe-Patterson, who specialize in mosaic rendering, were selected by a panel to create the structure at the Sun Metro terminal. The artists are to meet with the public and stakeholders and visit the site in order to conceptualize.
The terminal, to be opened in September, is perceived as a suitable public space for the installation. “There’s going to be thousands of people that go through that terminal,” said Dalbin.
The Portland-based Mahaffey Fine Art LLC will create the piece at the airport; the work was described on the agenda as “forty-five glass panels…depict[ing] Indian motif images originally located on the vigas in the Old El Paso International Airport.”
Dalbin explained the reasoning to select out-of-town artists for these particular projects: “We have a lot of talented and emerging artists, but we don’t have a lot who have worked in the public art field. We have local artists in our pool [of public artists], but we have a lot of muralists.”
Unlike the Downtown installation, the airport project is presented in more vivid detail because of the selection process, Dalbin said. Three finalists were selected, and painter Rae Mahaffey won the contract with a concept using fused glass as a medium and the Native American motifs as an inspiration.
Dalbin said the motif design had particular significance, because it was featured in the airport’s original structure. The fusion of the familiar design with the contemporary style seemed an appropriate mode for this art piece, she said: “Everyone in El Paso knows that motif. It’s been there since the 1930s. It gives us an identity; it speaks of who we are and of our history.”
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