Home > Article > Houston Artletter > Metro Mole part 1 2.15.07

I spent last weekend getting together my art proposal for the new Metro rail/bus stops.

I've got to admit Sara Kellner, former Director of Diverseworks and now Public Art Manager for the Metropolitan Transit Authority, did a great job corralling real artists for the new project. I have never done any public art, I hate most public art. But there I was, doodling ideas on the back of my information packet at the artist info session. I went to the meeting with a half-formed idea of becoming a mole, tunneling inside the metro public art program, then leaking its juicy secrets via this blog. Nevertheless, in an hour and forty minutes I doodled a half dozen ideas as I listened as Rey de La Reza, the architect, made it clear in the most polite terms that he would rather not have any art at all. I can sympathize. You work hard to design some pretty nice stations for the new metro system, and then you have to louse them up with some crappy art.

But good architects deal with compromises. Since you can't get rid of it, the strategy is to minimize the art to the point where it won't mess things up too much. The request for proposals identified parts of the station as art "opportunities," basically limiting the art to superficially applied decorations for the stations' glass panels, terrazzo paving and mechanical access covers.

At the same time, the art, unlike the overall station design, was supposed to be sensitive to input from the local communities near each proposed station. Very clever. If the public yaps about the station design, let the artists be the lightning rod.

It's insulting to be used like that. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there were things I could do to make those stations better, even within their constraints. More importantly, if I didn't, another artist with an even worse idea would.

I resolved to spend a minimum amount of time on my doomed proposal, but as I got interested, the three days I'd set aside became a week. Kellner tricked me into giving good value for the $500 I get for my proposal. Now it's up to them.

also by Bill Davenport
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1 Response

  1. jolly

    Take the money..then work for like 7000 hours (plus meetings)
    and have the slim chance that something you want will make it into something they want.
    I like Sara, my guess is she will pick you for the $$$$!

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