Kai Mazurczyk ’11 shares about her summer in CO as a Design + Build Fellow

13 09 2011

It used to be that artists worked independently in their studios, may be with a staff of assistants or in an artist cooperative, cloistered away with their ideas and largely secluded from the outside world. Galleries were similarly insular, focusing on attracting wealthy patrons and neglecting the interests of the larger populace. However, more and more, art is leaving these spaces and entering the public environment accessible to everyone. Artists are dialoguing, collaborating, and interacting with larger audiences. These changes are evident at the Museum of Outdoor Art in Englewood, CO, where I had the opportunity to participate in the public art process.
The Museum of Outdoor Art is not a conventional gallery environment. People of all ages and backgrounds can be found interacting with the museum’s extensive outdoor collection displayed in the Englewood City Center and Greenwood Village or in the museum’s indoor gallery where many of the pieces feature interactive elements. In the museum’s current exhibition, Light Supply, visitors pass through Jen Lewin’s Light Harp to create melodic sounds that fill the museum. In the permanent installation, Cabinet of Curiosities, visitors can open a cabinet door to reveal a beautiful, pop-up book fashioned watercolor painting telling a fairy tale.
It was in this extraordinary, playful place that I joined a team of students, artists, and museum staff to design and build an installation in the Englewood Civic Center breezeway. Seven weeks later, we had completed two “constellations” that hang above visitors, casting shadows during the day and at night glowing like the celestial lights that inspire the piece. Each of us came away with a new knowledge and appreciation for the role and responsibilities assigned to an  artist.
The public art process taught me skills that are useful beyond the of such projects. Successfully producing a public installation requires a high level of organization, cooperation, and professionalism; good disciplines that ensure quality production while meeting deadlines and amity with the client. In public art, professionalism is ensured with a sound project proposal, a document that holds artists accountable to their patrons and to project costs, construction, and safety as much as the creative concepting. These details by no means smother the creative vision but ensure an effective installation.
Interpersonal skills are essential to public art as collaboration, negotiation, and delegation takes place at every step of the process. Large-scale works simply cannot be completed on one’s own, and cooperating with people from different backgrounds equips the team with a wider body of knowledge and creativity. It is rewarding to work in collaboration on something bigger than what could ever have achieved or imagined on anyone’s own.
It was thrilling to be part of such a project and to see art engaging the local community. I learned valuable skills that can be applied beyond the scope of public art. The experience enlarged my vision of what it means to be an artist and will shape my approach in the future.
The Museum of Outdoor Arts takes summer interns every year for the Design and Build program. Learn more about the museum: http://www.moaonline.org <http://www.moaonline.org>

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