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On my next public art project

I've just signed the contracts for a public art project that I was chosen for in the middle of this month.

It's for the city of Urbana, Illinois, which is a small city (population 40,000) in the middle of the state. Most of the   University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a huge educational powerhouse, is housed within the Urbana city limits. Maybe that has something to do with its civic pride, and the fact that it has a vibrant public arts program. A curious fact is that in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, it's mentioned that Hal, the killer computer, was programmed in Urbana, IL.

The project that I submitted was a variation on the community memoir/luminary project that I did last year together with Patty. It's called 'IN URBANA, I ...', and the concept is this: I interview residents of on the street, and ask them to complete the sentence 'In Urbana, I ...' in any way that they choose -- for example, 'In Urbana I go to college,' 'In Urbana I fell in love,' 'In Urbana I raised a family.' As the participant writes down their sentence, I take a smartphone photo of them and upload it to a Facebook page. The Facebook page will also be used to solicit more sentences and photos. When I get to somewhere between 100-200 contributions, I will print the faces and corresponding sentences onto a big display (format to be determined). That will be exhibited in a public space in Urbana for a while. One proposed spot would be outside the Urbana Free Library:


There are a few important differences between last year's project and this. First: I've received a $2,000 grant to complete it. I intend to raise another $2,000 from other sources. Second: I'm flying solo on this one, though I might get some students from the university to intern for me. Third: one of the things I learned from last year is to make the barrier for participation as low as possible, or to make it as easy as possible for people to make a contribution. Last year, Patty and I ran a series of two hour workshops, and the hardest thing in the world was to make people turn up. This way, people either say yes or no. If no, it's on to the next person.

I've already sent out the first press release. In the next few weeks I'll put together the timeline for the project. Stay tuned for more news.

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