Jack Becker, Forecast founder and Director of Consulting and Creative Services, was invited to visit Lima, Peru by the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP). Their interdisciplinary research group, EMPLAZAR (Space + Art + Public) is composed of art historians, architects, curators and philosophers, and is “dedicated to addressing the conditions of living in Lima through artistic dynamics in order to offer alternatives and improvements to people’s lives.”
According to the invitation Jack received from Fernando Pérez Riojas, Chief of Academic Department of Art & Design, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, “Public art is the best tool for the urban renewal of our metropolis as long as the artistic practices encourages ethical values of dignity and citizenship. The Forecast Public Art association you have founded has helped connect the energies and talents of artists around the USA with the needs and opportunities of different communities. The art projects you favor all develop and express a community’s sense of place and pride. This synergy between artists and architects together with the inhabitants and their local governments is precisely what [our interdisciplinary research group] is trying to do in Lima, the capital city of Peru, with 10 millions inhabitants.”
To help fund the trip and enable this new connection, Jack was encouraged to apply for a Fullbright Specialist Grant. He received the grant, which comes through the Fullbright World Learning Program, a program of the United States Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The specific purpose of the grant was to connect the local talents of artists, architects, curators, anthropologists, art historians and philosophers with local politicians and urban managers in Lima in order to assist the city in creating public art that expresses a sense of place and pride.
In addition to public speaking engagements and meeting with mayors of Lima’s Districts, Jack led a public art and place-based design workshop for students in the EMPLAZAR program. Among the elements of his workshop is “place listening,” in which the many contextual considerations of a place are identified, analyzed and mined for their richness in informing the design of a meaningful, resonant gathering place.
Results Achieved: the most important outcomes of the project
Jack Becker: I believe I impressed upon the people I met with (and presented to) a broader vision of the potential of the public realm; a venue for creative and meaningful exchange. I think my audiences gained insights into the potential of inviting artists to the table, for planning, community development and for urban revitalization. I also developed new relationships with educational institutions and professionals who stated interest in continuing our conversations, including one group that said they would like me to return to Lima next year to participate in a larger forum on urban development.
JB: I intend to continue collaborating with PUCP, including some faculty members and the seven sculpture students with whom I met and coached as they developed concepts for public art projects at a challenging, yet evocative site in Lima. I hope to hear about their progress over the next few months, and see the designs they produce out of the workshop. I have also offered to provide additional feedback and advice via email, and hope they take me up on my offer.
Praise for Jack, and an additional talk at the request of the Ministry of Culture
JB: I spent my final day in Lima, reconnecting with the students and responding to a request from the Ministry of Culture. They asked me to give a short talk at “A New Urban Agenda” forum, attended by 60-70 cultural workers and city administrators from Lima and neighboring Callao. According to forum organizer, Mariana Alegre, ‘Jack Becker’s presentation was a great contribution for the activity. His experience and knowledge were a big motivation for the cultural managers of municipalities from Lima and Callao and has also inspired lines of action for future work between cultural organizations and municipalities.’
Potential place-making lessons to be learned from the engineers of Machu Picchu
Jack was joined by his wife, Nancy, who helped document the visit and provided images for his periodic updates for Forecast and the Fullbright. Prior to leaving Peru, they visited Machu Picchu, the “Lost City of the Incas.” This sacred place attracts more than one million visitors a year. According to some, now is the time to visit, as plans are underway to limit access and control the growing crowds to protect this historic treasure.
JB: For the first four days of the second week (Sept 9-13), my wife and I took a side trip to Cusco and Machu Picchu. These are legendary areas of Peru that gave us a peek into the ancient civilization of the Incas, which designed and built amazingly complex and sophisticated cities, temples, and sacred sites. We were in awe of the stone work, the engineering, the agricultural landscaping and the architecture, especially in the mountain-top village of Machu Picchu. In terms of place-making, these artists, engineers and craftspeople were highly skilled. I think we could learn a great deal from them, yet I wondered if planners and elected leaders in Lima would agree, as the city lacks a sense of organization, connectedness, and welcoming public space.