Back about five years ago, when I migrated from urban planning to a focus on art in public places (not that far a migration, it turns out), a friend told me about a New Yorker article dating from the early 1990’s -- a profile of the artist Robert Irwin. Its title: “In a desert of pure feeling.” There’s much to dig into, but I’ll stick with this one, absolutely critical, point: he’s quoted as saying “I always make that distinction between public art and art in public places – it’s a question of where you put the emphasis, where you locate the source. The question is how you can take art out into the world” [my italics].

From that point I’ve tried to unpack the label “public art” and deliberately shine some light on the public (who’s the public?), the place (where’s the place?), and how can/does the art respond to both. So, yes, BostonAPP/Lab – Arts in Public Places – tries to acknowledge that.

And derived from that useful (I hope!) rubric, the Lab puts some serious stock in issues of collaboration, of civic engagement, of community development -- in asking, and then trying to answer, another question: “what can we do together that we can’t do separately?”

The Lab’s Workshops – and certainly the ArtsCommons project – have been, and will be, efforts to reflect both Irwin’s initial question as well as ways in which collaboration could provide a way in to an answer.

I’m curious to know: how would you respond to Irwin’s statement? How would you describe/define your "world" -- socially, physically, other? How does collaboration work in your environment/practice/neighborhood?

The floor -- or keyboard -- is your's...

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