10 Questions with Visual Artist, Art Educator, and Director of Art in Public Places, Christie Thompson Holechek
Christie Thompson Holechek is a third-generation native to Jacksonville. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Painting and Drawing from the University of North Florida (UNF) and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studio and Theory from Portland, Maine's Maine College of Art.
For the past 18 years, Holechek has served Jacksonville in leadership positions including arts administration, secondary education, and youth arts programming with a mission to make arts and culture accessible to all. Since 2010, she has held the position of Director of Art in Public Places (APP), the City of Jacksonville's Percent for Art program that is administered by the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville. Holechek is also an adjunct professor in 2-D Design and Drawing at her alma mater, UNF, and maintains an active studio practice.
APP was established in 1997 and represents the City of Jacksonville's ongoing commitment to invest in the arts. The program allots a percent for art in eligible city construction projects. Those funds then go to growing the City's public art collection. The program is designed to integrate a wide range of art into spaces that are free and accessible to the public.
On April 6, 2018, APP announced a Call to Artists in connection with the Downtown Investment Authority (DIA) Urban Arts Project, Phase II. Those interested in applying for the opportunity must submit their qualifications no later than Thursday, May 10, 2018. The call solicits artists who can address streetscape aesthetics with functional and interactive public art that serves to draw attention to an outdoor urban area utilized during both daytime and nighttime. Artists are encouraged to explore ways to integrate public art with technology and renewable sources of energy. The four categories of public art included in Phase II include vinyl wrapped traffic signal cabinets, sculptural bicycle racks, 2-D art, and outdoor sculpture.
10 Questions with Christie Thompson Holechek
Can you briefly describe how the City of Jacksonville designates funds for public art?
Mayor Delaney signed legislation in 1997 to establish Art in Public Places, as a percent-for-art program under the City’s Public Works division. This may have been in anticipation of Jacksonville taxpayers' vote on a half-cent sales tax increase to fund new CIP construction and infrastructure projects as part of the Better Jacksonville Plan. In 2000, BJP projects generated $1.5 million in funding from 0.75% percent of budgets having been set aside for public art. For the next five years, BJP building construction would serve as a platform for the City to work directly with artists, architects, and engineers to integrate permanent public art into the design and construction of city facilities. Each year, APP continues to monitor the list of eligible CIP projects proposed in the annual City budget. If approved by City Council, public funding is then set aside and projects are adopted in to APP's Five Year Plan.
The DIA Urban Arts Project is a 3-phased test-pilot program also funded by public dollars, but in this case, the funds originate from CRA designated areas and additional in-kind support and private donations. From time to time, private donors may also offer gifts to the Mayor for inclusion into the APP collection. Looking ahead, a city-wide public art master plan may be funded by both private and public dollars to establish a roadmap and framework for the administration and inclusion of all planned and future public art projects city-wide.
What are some developmental goals for APP and what strategies are in place to increase the likelihood that goals are met?
This year, APP is poised to launch a city-wide maintenance and conservation initiative for the APP collection; as well as, kick off at least six new public art installations city wide. Schedules will soon be posted for upcoming stakeholder and art selection panel meetings. Education and community outreach, artist professional development and training will continue as vital components to the success of every public art project, including plans for the development of an allied artist program in conjunction with the largest public art installation in the City’s history at the Duval County Courthouse.
To learn more, artists, community members, students, and business leaders are encouraged to attend monthly APP Committee meetings on the second Wednesday of every month in City Hall. These meetings start at 12:00 PM.
What would you define as major milestones in APP's history and what do you see as opportunities for additional growth?
The establishment of the APP ordinance in 1997 is the greatest milestone in the program’s history. It is no small feat for any public figure or entity to lead an initiative which establishes new laws, much less one that funds public art out of city construction budgets.
In 2006, the City designated the Cultural Council as administrator of the program and an APP Committee was formed. This ensured that members of the Cultural Council's Board of Directors, art professionals, educators, and community members from City Planning Districts had strong representation on the Committee.
Today, the City and APP are very close to formalizing a sound public art policy and process for administering the most meaningful and iconic projects throughout Duval county. Especially, in neighborhoods and communities where meaningful public art projects are absent and long overdue.
What are some challenges you face as both the Director of APP and an artist and member of the creative community?
When I accepted the position in 2010, I learned very quickly that the City’s APP program needed to be improved significantly in order for it to function as it was intended to. I discovered the absence of resources and found that the procedures in place to facilitate the program under the city via that Cultural Council had to be developed from scratch. Many of these challenges still linger today, but I’ve found resolution over the years from the ongoing support and development of partnerships between City departments, City Council, APP Committee members, vendors, residents, business owners, and artists alike.
I also obligated myself to be accessible to the local artist community in an effort to support and encourage more participation in the City’s public art process. During the launch of DIA Phase I, I did not anticipate that I would have to carry the burden and weight of negativity that would come from peers in my community. Either way, I have not been deterred from presenting more opportunities and scalable “bridge projects” to serve as stepping stones for local artists.
FYI: The Call for Artists to participate in Phase II of DIA is now open. Take advantage of having access to the project site, APP staff, and resources.
What are three cities whose public art programs inspire you, and why? Additionally, what do you think Jacksonville can learn from these cities?
Nashville, Chicago and Miami are three US cities with model public art programs that I look to when I’m developing innovative public art programming for Jacksonville, including sustainable maintenance and community outreach.
Nashville raises the bar with social programming including the integration of hud housing development and public art in underused and abandoned areas.
Chicago’s public art collection and policies model the standard for best practices in the field. “Cloud Gate” by Anish Kapoor is one of the most notable public artworks in the world.
Each year in Miami’s Wynwood Walls district, urban graffiti and street artists dismantle and rebuild large-scale painted murals on private property. This ephemeral and visual cacophony of both temporal and permanent public art murals and installations can be observed annually in December throughout the district in connection to Miami Art Week and Art Basel.
How do you think public art can reinforce a city's identity?
With more than 350 percent for art programs nationwide and growing, US cities are being infused with public art installations in public spaces. Examples of visual iconography, symbolism, and bold design are prevalent in today’s permanent and temporary public art installations. Some works are timeless and ephemeral while others reveal complex visual concepts embedded in historical and present day social commentary.
Installed throughout communities today, residents and visitors can discover murals, sculptures, mosaics, photography, and time-based art by recognized and emerging public artists. Most works are site-specific in nature, installed in locations where the meaning and message, or identity of the place and its people is revealed.
Because public art is accessible to all, communities get to experience a variety of art media and applications created to preserve history and current events while highlighting the experiences of the people and the society of that place.
What are the benefits of having the City and creative community working together to form a strategic plan to shape Jacksonville’s visual landscape?
A Public Art Master Plan is a tool to connect existing creative collaborations and partnerships between Jacksonville artists, community members, city planners and departments, and local businesses into a city-wide plan for implementation. Planned construction and renovations of new city facilities and public spaces are identified and used to reinforce the framework needed to execute a plan steeped in impact and relevance.
As Jacksonville develops Capital Improvement Projects on an annual basis, a public art master plan would incorporate that development into a shared vision with desired outcomes from the community it serves. Artists, educators, and other art professionals, city planners, architects, businesses, residents, and all of Jacksonville’s significant entities who represent a seat at the table of a master planning process, will ensure a collective vision and intended direction for the long-term success of a city’s public art program and cultural development.
How would you describe your approach to arts administration and community development in Jacksonville?
For the last eight years, I’ve focused on my role as an artist, educator, administrator, community member and 3rd generation Jacksonville native to create authentic public art programming and projects under the administration of Jacksonville’s Art in Public Places program. Since 2010, as the APP Program Director, I’ve worked closely with the community and city leadership including collaborations with artists, business owners, and college students from UNF, JU, FSCJ, FSU, and SCAD participating in the APP Internship Program.
Every new APP project includes community development and artist engagement at designated public art project sites throughout the county, including the urban core. Regularly scheduled public meetings and site visits for upcoming projects include the assistance of City departments, contractors, business owners, artists, and other specialized vendors. Community surveys, monthly APP Committee and Art Selection Panel meetings are always open to the public. Presentations to neighborhood groups contribute to the success of APP projects within our city and support efforts to build our city’s identity.
If an individual or group of individuals are interested in participating in the public art process, what are some ways that they can get involved?
All Art in Public Places meetings are open to the public including APP Committee and Art Selection Panel meetings. Participants are selected to represent the wealth of diversity found throughout Jacksonville’s community. Individuals are selected by project location and expertise based on the neighborhood in which the project resides. Art professionals and art educators may work with college students or develop other ideas for arts integration. City department representatives will ensure city process, policy and procedures are correctly implemented throughout the duration of each project. APP internships and volunteer opportunities are available all year round.
What would you like to see as an effort to support and grow Jacksonville's arts and cultural sector?
I believe that the APP Program can facilitate a lasting experience and impact on the community with more permanent public art installations located in city facilities as part of new capital building construction projects. In the near future, I’d like to see the APP ordinance percent set aside apply to the building construction and development of parks and surrounding infrastructures that are currently not eligible City projects.
The artworks in the collection must continue to be measured by the highest standards to ensure originality, innovation, sustainability and impact as it represents fully the site and community of its location. APP is a tool for elevating the conversation and importance of arts integration into the City’s public spaces. The program demands the involvement of community partners and artists to ensure the evolution of an authentic public art collection is sustainable while establishing effective public art programming.
We'd like to thank Amanda Holloway, Ciera Frazier, Mahima Kedlaya, and Camden Pao for their participation in this interview. We'd also like to thank you for reading.
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