Activating Artists as an Urban Resource

Planning and art don't traditionally mix, but that's changing. Embedded at NYC's Department of Design and Construction, artist Mary Miss envisions public art as an infrastructural aid.

1 minute read

May 24, 2017, 10:00 AM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc


Small Town Art

huffstutterrobertl / Flickr

Long-time public artist Mary Miss serves as the first artist-in-residence at New York City’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC), with a mandate "to change the culture of an agency known for its sometimes difficult relationships with architects."

Jen Kinney writes, "In the past 30 years, just 337 percent-for-art projects have been installed in the city, while thousands of construction and infrastructure projects have been undertaken in that same time."

In her DDC position, as well as through her nonprofit City as Living Laboratory, Miss sees ways to integrate public art into cities' infrastructural needs. For example, in Milwaukee, she proposes to "light the water treatment plant's stack so that it glows blue most of the time, but turns red the night before it's forecasted to rain. Through education, residents will understand this as encouragement not to run their dishwashers or washing machines or take baths until the storm has passed."

"When it comes to integrating artists at DDC, Miss offers three potential pathways: Artists could be hired as liaisons between a construction project and local residents, before, during and after construction; they could be brought on as a member of the design team; or they could apply to DDC as fellows."

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