Public Art Planning During COVID-19
Monday, April 13, 2020
Monday, April 13, 2020
By Lauren Bouvier, AES student and HeART of the Garden Intern
HeART of the Garden is a collaboration between UMass Arts Extension Service’s Arts Entrepreneurship Initiative and UMass Permaculture Initiative. Intended for the Spring 2020 semester, the project’s culmination was to place a public artwork created by a student in the Franklin Permaculture Garden. Lauren’s internship position with AES assisted in managing and producing HeART of the Garden. Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the closing of the campus, HeART of the Garden has been postponed. Lauren shares her thoughts on the process over the past semester and the next steps moving forward.
The Arts Extension Service has been a recent discovery of my academic career. As a BDIC student majoring in Event Planning, I was dumbfounded that AES was never brought to my attention until searching for classes by clicking on each individual department’s website. Luckily, AES begins with an A and I did not have to search very far to realize that the classes provided through the Arts Management Certificate laid the perfect foundation for my dream major. When I heard that internships were being offered through the department, I knew that was an opportunity I wanted to embark upon.
When I found out that I had received the position, I immediately called my parents. I felt like I had found a role that truly supported my career intentions. In December, I met with AES and Permaculture staff to jumpstart Heart in the Garden. The project’s concept was simple — to place art in Franklin Permaculture Garden, which reflected permaculture values. Prior to the end of the semester, we drafted a basic outline of benchmarks and a job description. I struggled with this process. I was unsure of what permaculture was and how AES would interact with the garden to help facilitate a successful project. Over winter break, I read chapters regarding the concepts of permaculture to formulate a better understanding. The first task was to outline a mission statement, values, criteria, goals, and objectives for the project.
"As a student, seeing the program take off and inspire people to create works for the garden felt like I actually had an impact on UMass and the spaces that students engage with."
At first, the process was a bit nerve-racking, but once I learned about the values of permaculture, formulating the mission of the project was an easier process than I expected. The mission and program values hold a tremendous amount of value because they guide an art program. Both of the staff overseeing the project met my work with constructive criticism and I learned how to revise the work in a professional setting. From there, the project began to take off. We brainstormed grandiose ideas of how the site would fill with art. Ideas fueled the process along. As excitement increased, the project developed and flourished.
Knowing that we would either be installing art into the location or hosting a performative event, the timeline began to take shape around the University Public Art Committee and their meeting in March. The UMass University Public Arts Committee approves and oversees proposed public art projects on the UMass campus. As part of the process, we had to create an open call for proposals. One of the most difficult pieces of the process thus far, the open call gave structure to our timeline. The artist's open call was exhilarating. Posting flyers, sharing content, and reaching out to departments launched the call. Our first submission was received the same day as the proposal went live. As a student, seeing the program take off and inspire people to create works for the garden felt like I actually had an impact on UMass and the spaces that students engage with. Student artists also had the opportunity to experience submitting a proposal and the application process.
Next, I conducted focus groups to gain feedback on submissions and hear what students envisioned in the garden. The first day I ran the focus group, I was nervous. It was like presenting a group project with doubled the amount of stress. Using visual thinking strategies to help guide the focus group, the discussions focused on how the art would interact with the space in the garden and the students. We took this feedback under consideration in our final decisions.
"Using visual thinking strategies to help guide the focus group, the discussions focused around how the art would interact with the space in the garden and the students. We took this feedback under consideration in our final decisions."
March has been a difficult month for all of the residents and staff at the University of Massachusetts. As everything spiraled in the past month, UMass’ administration moved classes online and students were sent home. I am very lucky that I work with people who are able to find the positives in everything. As the world continues into a state of unease, the timeline for HeART of the Garden has been shifted to a forthcoming semester to finalize and unveil this public artwork. We find comfort by continuing. We will succeed in putting art in the Franklin Garden, whether it is this spring or in the fall. When we do, we will have succeeded in establishing the initial framework for Heart in the Garden.
The UMass Arts Entrepreneurship Initiative funds the Arts Extension Service’s Internship program. The Initiative works to advance our region’s culture, community, and creative economy by strengthening ties between students, artists, community leaders, and the University. The Initiative’s programs include internships, courses, workshops and professional development trainings, and consulting. Join our mailing list to stay informed!