Proposals wanted for Artists Bridging Social Distance in the Public Realm initiative | Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Proposals wanted for Artists Bridging Social Distance in the Public Realm initiative

click to enlarge Proposals wanted for Artists Bridging Social Distance in the Public Realm initiative
Photo: Ashley Anderson
Office of Public Art staff members meeting remotely through Zoom
The Office of Public Art (OPA) at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council (GPAC) is seeking proposals from local visual and performing artists for its new initiative, Artists Bridging Social Distance in the Public Realm.

Three artists will be chosen from submissions that “bridge social distance, increase a sense of community well being, and provide avenues for intellectual and emotional engagement,” reads the press release.

OPA director Sallyann Kluz says the call for artists is a “direct response to questions that have come up within our own team about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our relationship to public space and to each other.”

“As an organization that is deeply committed to the social and cultural importance of public places in shaping our personal and civic lives, it is frankly unnerving as we begin to grasp the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic will have on our lives both now and in the future," says Kluz. "However, we believe deeply in the ability of artists' creative practices to catalyze new approaches to the challenges that face us. Through this opportunity, we hope to spur new thinking about how our communities can stay connected even while remaining physically distant.”

While all media and disciplines will be considered, the project should be widely shareable through digital and virtual platforms, or by other means, as a way to meet public health and safety guidelines set by the state and local government, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Each artist selected will receive $1,500 to implement their project.

The COVID-19 response has had its own impact on GPAC. The organization initially postponed or canceled any meetings, programs, or workshops, as well as OPA events like walking tours, through March 31. Judging by information on the GPAC website, that has now extended to events up through the end of April. It was also announced that effective March 16, GPAC staff would work remotely.

"We have a multitude of projects and events that were either in progress or deep in planning when this crisis began," says OPA associate director Divya Rao Heffley, and OPA project manager Derek Reese, in a joint statement.

They add that the OPA moved quickly to postpone events and project launches, and shift project meetings to an online format. "We have been focusing on finding creative, virtual ways to keep our projects moving until such a time as we can resume programming in real-time and -space."

However, they stress the OPA's commitment to "ensuring all of our projects and events see their way to completion, in one form or another, as soon as it is feasible and safe for everyone involved."

They anticipate that the proposals will run the full spectrum of possibilities in terms of medium, approach, and outcome, and are open to the variety of ways artists care to share their work.

"We trust artists to determine what sharing means within the context of their own work and look forward to potentially learning about creative new ways of distributing or disseminating artwork within the constraints we now face," they say.

Ultimately, they see the initiative as a learning opportunity, albeit a challenging one, for all local artists, especially those unfamiliar with sharing work online.

"Our dream is that these new processes or outcomes will remain relevant even beyond the threat of the coronavirus, opening up new pathways for making and experiencing artwork in the public realm," they say. "We hope that these projects bring connection, hope, and even joy to the audiences who experience them, increasing access to public art and making these experiences as broad and equitable as possible."

Deadline for Artists Bridging Social Distance in the Public Realm submissions is Mon., April 20 at 11:59 p.m. Selected artists will be announced in late April and projects are anticipated to be launched in late May. Those interested can also access a virtual information session on Mon., April 13 from 4-5 p.m. on Zoom

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