I recently started going through the notes from our Workshops, dating back to January 2013 and continuing through to the present, just to remind myself about what all of us did/talked about/speculated about...different ways of completing the question, "What if...?" 

What was striking was the ongoing presence of a kind of theme that pervaded many – if not most – of the discussions, at least as captured in the notes, regardless of the specific topic. 

That theme – which I’ll call #CivicLife  -- was stated in multiple ways, including the following, via an eloquent comment from artist Eric Sealine:

The function of public art is to transform the way people respond to each other.  It has less to do with the object itself than with the community created by its effect on the people who see it.  If it is successful, they look at the object and then turn toward each other.  
In the case of Echelman's piece in Porto, people cross a busy intersection to spend time with each other in the space created by the sculpture.  Her "1.26" to me is an even more successful piece, even harder to read, even more unexpected.  Her pieces create what I think would be called in anthropological terms "ritual spaces," spaces in which the normal rules of (dis)engagement are changed.  When the gentleman [at the Workshop] asked "What are we transforming?" I was stumped.  Maybe the answer is, "We are transforming ourselves." 
I was recently in Chicago and saw Anish Kapoor's "Cloud Gate."  It has been renamed "The Bean" by the locals, and for very good reason; it is now their’s.  People who have no other connection to the art world know exactly how to regard the piece.  They play with it, and with each other.

I figure there's more to be done with -- and about -- this...about what Eric calls "the transformative function of art in public places": figuring out the different kinds of initiatives that could reflect that function...the different conditions within which such transformations might take place..and the different participants.

But this is me: what about you? What rings true -- even enticing! -- as you take a look or two at the notes:

  • What resonated? 
  • What would you like to pursue?
  • What would a new Workshop look like?
  • What if...?

Remember, there are no wrong answers: let's hear from you!!