At the end of last week, two public art projects competed for media attention in the USA. In the small town of Yellow Springs, Ohio, a few local women knitted a sweater for ONE tree during a winter day. Any volunteer knitter could climb the eight-foot ladder and add her wrap to the tree trunk or limb. In Las Vegas, two of world’s largest resort and gaming corporations announced a $40 million dollar expenditure for fine art at the future CityCenter $8 billion casino and resort. New huge artworks have been commissioned from Jenny Holzer, Nancy Rubins, Maya Lin and Richard Long plus the display of large existing works by Oldenburg/ van Bruggen, Frank Stella and Henry Moore.
Yellow Springs Knitters
·Strategy: Someone must have known a local AP stringer. Stringer pitches story to AP. Report with picture hits the AP wire.
·Results: Multiple publications in daily newspapers across the United States including Washington Post, NY Times, Boston Globe, International Herald Tribune, etc, etc, etc.
·Economic Development: Yellow Springs spreads its reputation as an “artsy” community.
MGM Mirage and Dubai World
·Strategy: Write the article in the form of a press release and distribute via prnewswire.com. Call up editors and reports at various papers. Push hard.
·Results: One print article outside Nevada in the NY Times with online slide show that was picked up and republished in Taipei. Partial or full posting of prnewswire text on online business or gaming websites.
·Economic Development: Las Vegas has upscale resorts equivilent to Dubai.
Nancy Rubin Proposal for CityCenter
I am interested in why the Yellow Springs knitters out paced MGM Mirage. The greater success Yellow Springs comes from the actual installation of the artwork, not just a story about the future. Real people and their honest reactions could be interviewed on the streets near the tree. The NY Times had to stretch to find a few quotes and a very staged picture of Ms. Lin with a tiny segment of her silver river.
Yellow Springs had other advantages that public art programs might note. The artwork was colorful and clearly understood by a single photograph – strips of knit fabric tightly wrapping the trunk and limbs by local women as a celebration of winter and their own joyful spirit. The visual effect was dynamic on the tree.
As reported by AP, Corrine Bayraktaroglu, an artist who helped start the “knitknot tree” project, stated: “People are really, really enjoying it. They’re coming from towns to have their photograph taken with the tree.”
How many civic art programs strive for this reported comment on an abstract, design-integrated public artwork: “It looks like Yellow Springs; it’s unique, it’s colorful, unpredictable,” said Lynda Sirk. “It makes me smile. That’s what I like.” Unique, colorful, unpredictable – all words welcome in any critical commentary on Nancy Rubins, Frank Stella and Oldenburg/van Bruggen in Las Vegas.
Houston’s Knitta wrapping light poles in San Antonio
I was surprised to learn that knitted artworks for the street are a practiced artform. A group of six artists from Houston called Knitta have been collectively wrapping elements of the street for the last three years. A knittaplease photo collection is available on Flickr.
Tree Cozies in Indiana (photos “The Republic”)
Also this winter is the tree cozy competition in Columbus, Indiana. 30 artists wrapped the lower trunk of 30 street trees with knitted works. Alice Dorwsky (spelling help?) of New England has been making beautiful yellow wraps and tree hangings for the last few years.
CityCenter Design (NY Times Slide Show)
Back to CityCenter in Las Vegas. What to make of the end of bad taste in Sin City? When Steve Wynn added art to his other casinos in the 1990s, the art was tasteful, but not the setting. With CityCenter line up of architects – Foster, Pelli, Vinoly and Libeskind – now the French and other European critics will stop commenting and Japanese youth will stop visiting. Viva Las Vegas might be approaching retirement. Even Las Vegas can become just another flashy resort. What could be worse?
For the record, $40 million is only one-half of a percent (1/2%) of the $8 billion project. So although it sounds and IS a lot of money for art, a typical 1% for art program would receive $80 million.
But still the world was more interested in the $50 dollars of yarn in Yellow Springs this weekend.