Brand + Culture

Public Art Promotes Drive for Human Creativity

Paris has the Eiffel Tower, Chicago has “The Bean,” and Hong Kong has Tian Tan Buddha. Art installations on a large scale can become iconic symbols of communities and culture. Public art at any scale, concluded John McCarthy in the Journal of Urban Design, can contribute to a type of placemaking that will grow a creative element, attract investment, cultivate social unity and enhance the quality of residents’ lives. New public art installations are drawing from their local communities and delivering meaning in vibrant, long-lasting ways.

“Public art relates to city life in many deep ways, ways that call out to meaning, memory, social empowerment, the intangible and ever-present drive for human creativity that may or may not be immediately visible at street level,” wrote Pamela Jo Landi for ScholarWorks @ UMass Amherst.

Minnesota Library: Sectio Aurea

Minnesota Library

331 CeramicSteel panels were used in the 160-foot-long mural in Hennepin County, Minnesota.

Minnesota Library

Special enameling technology fires full-color images directly into the UV-resistant surface, merging the ephemeral quality of the art with the permanence of the material.

Minnesota Library

The Hennepin County, Minnesota library mural has an additional layer of complexity, incorporating the golden ratio.

Minnesota Library

The Hennepin County, Minnesota library mural, dubbed “Sectio Aurea” by the artist, RE:site, unfolds layer upon layer in a lenticular effect.

Minnesota Library

The hundreds of panels, crafted in desired sizes and angles, were meticulously waterjet cut and labeled by PolyVision so that the installer would know exactly where each one should go.

Minnesota Library

From the outside, passersby see the mural through the clerestory windows.

Minnesota Library

RE:site had worked with PolyVision a3 CeramicSteel on two previous outdoor projects and knew that its properties were such that it would render their designs flawlessly.

In a bustling suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Hennepin County Library System uses public art as a powerful promotion of discovery and learning. As part of a new building, the library invited artists to create an interactive, panoramic mural that would both mirror people walking in and out of the library and invite them to interact with the learning in the pages of the library’s books.

The lenticular mural, Sectio Aurea, allows viewers to discover two pieces of interactive artwork. Each of the 331 unique, digitally imaged a3™ CeramicSteel panels unfolds like an accordion. Walk through the space in one direction, and the images seen are global – fingerprints, world art, ancient fossils and spiraling galaxies. Turn around and walk back the other way, and the topics are local – indigenous plants, Hmong embroidery, biomedical imaging and Mississippi River eddy currents. The experience is like walking past shelves of colorful book spines, their pages inside full of knowledge.

RE:site, a Houston-based studio creating artwork within the context of public space, designed the piece by working with PolyVision CeramicSteel, and Designtex, both Steelcase companies, as well as Metalab, a public art project management studio. The artists chose to work with CeramicSteel because they know that the durable material’s UV-resistant surface and specialized printing process will keep their work vivid and long-lasting. Designtex used their expertise to ensure the artwork printed successfully on PolyVision’s state of the art printer in Belgium and Metalab handled installation. The resulting mural is a metaphor for discovery and learning, each panel a subject to discover, just as a book opens to rich learning.

“This large piece of art uses movement to connect local and global, past and present,” says Norman Lee, artist and co-founder of RE:site.

Tampa Riverwalk: Woven Waves

Tampa Riverwalk

Installed on Tampa, Florida’s riverwalk, Woven Waves evokes a “crazy quilt” that “stitches” together the various multicultural communities of Tampa.

Tampa Riverwalk

Manufactured by PolyVision, the 54 uniquely imaged CeramicSteel panels are installed in a custom stainless steel framing system designed by Metalab.

Tampa Riverwalk

The system framing allows the image to change based upon your approaching direction.

Tampa Riverwalk

PolyVision a3 CeramicSteel panels are durable enough to withstand the elements of the river environment.

Tampa Riverwalk

54 panels make up the 201 square foot art installation.

Tampa Riverwalk

The artist, RE:Site, took inspiration from the history of the site and the Laurel Street Bridge.

Tampa Riverwalk

The bridge literally and figuratively connects Tampa geographically and also socially.

Tampa Riverwalk

The artwork features ‘folded’ a3 CeramicSteel panels which create a lenticular effect that changes with the viewer’s movement.

Tampa Riverwalk

Whether passing by on foot, bicycle or in a canoe or kayak on the river, the lenticular composition is designed to enhance the experience of a wide variety of people.

Tampa Riverwalk

The artist, RE:Site, said they used traditional West African, Cuban, and Scottish cultural patterns to evoke a “crazy quilt” inspired by the current of the Hillsborough River.

Tampa Riverwalk

Woven Waves creates an experience of discovery and surprise for viewers as they move by on foot, bicycle, and river, via kayaks and canoes.

RE:site, PolyVision, Designtex and Metalab teamed up on another project in Tampa, Florida. In an effort to transform its popular waterfront into a more active and pedestrian friendly area, the City of Tampa commissioned art along it’s riverwalk. Inspired by the water current of the river and the rich history of the area, Woven Waves evokes a “crazy quilt” that “stitches” together Tampa’s various multicultural communities.

Colorado Rail Station: Chromatic Harvest

Polyvision Colorado
Chromatic Harvest is another partnership between RE:Site and PolyVision. It’s slated for installation at the Arvada Ridge Commuter Rail Station in Colorado in spring 2017.

More public art projects are underway already. Chromatic Harvest is slated for installation in spring 2017 to bring art to patrons of the Arvada Ridge Commuter Rail Station in a suburb of Denver, Colorado. RE:Site describes the artwork as connecting the region’s past with the present and future using themes of agriculture and movement. PolyVision’s “folded” a3 CeramicSteel panels will be integrated into the rail station to allow the viewer’s own movement to become part of how they experience the work. It’s all part of Denver’s Regional Transportation District’s Art-n-Transit program which includes an array of public art at more than 45 rail stations and bus terminals throughout the Denver metro area.

Because public art exists in the public realm, the artist has to take into consideration the physical or environmental parameters as it relates to public safety and structural integrity. This means working closely with the architects, landscape architects, engineers, and general contractors. This is one reason RE:Site, PolyVision, Designtex and Metalab have worked on a number of successful projects together.

“Public art is about connecting people with their surroundings or community in a meaningful way,” says Lee. “It creates a sense of discovery because people come across it when they’re not expecting to. I believe public art has the power to get people to pause during their busy lives and live in the now, really connecting with their surroundings.”

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