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Making Change: 11th Street Park Bridge | Washington D.C.

This second issue of our NEW consulting newsletter transports us from Reno, NV (elevation 4,500’) to Washington D.C. (elevation 410’), landing upon the banks of the Anacostia River at the soon-to-be-built 11th Street Bridge Park, designed by OMA and OLIN, for not one, but FIVE public art commissions! Here’s the WHO, WHAT, and HOW into the Forecast Public Art approach to creating meaningful public art projects, seen through the eyes of our Senior Project Manager, Mark Salinas.

WHO ARE OUR PARTNERS?

We enjoy doing work where we get to engage and interact with community members who are most affected by public art. That’s been hard during the pandemic, but we had the opportunity in early 2020 to work on a really special project in Reno, Nevada, where we got to know the community along the historic Lincoln Highway.

Continuing the success of a 40+ year old public art consultation organization like Forecast is….well, a BIG responsibility. And, it is a special honor to be on the team to advocate and administer transparent, equitable processes for public art which reflects the community and shapes the landscape.

Our team responded to an RFP issued by Building Bridges Across the River (BBAR) to develop, manage, and administer a public art selection process which was to lead to 5 permanent pieces of public art sited at the 11th Street Bridge Park. BBAR was committed to commissioning an artist who is Black/African American and decided that Forecast was a perfect partner with our particular emphasis on supporting and amplifying the artistic work of BIPOC and Native artists, LGBTQIA+ artists, womxn artists, immigrant artists, artists from rural communities, and artists with disabilities. We hired local curator Deirdre Darden to work with us on this project. Deirdre is a key part of our team, managing the RFQ process and coordinating the projects with the Curatorial and Nominator Committees.

The 11th Street Bridge Park Washington, D.C.’s first elevated public park, is located in Ward 8 in the heart of the DMV, the D.C., Maryland, Virginia area stretching over the Anacostia River. The river itself separates Ward 6, a west neighborhood of a 29% Black population, and Ward 8, an east neighborhood of a 88% Black population with the lowest income levels in the district. As part of its planning efforts, the 11th Street Bridge Park launched an Equitable Development Plan that lays out ways that the Bridge Park can proactively address issues like economic development and affordable housing to minimize the displacement of residents as the neighborhood grows.

Located on the piers of the old 11th Street Bridge, this space will be developed to include community generated programming including: outdoor performance spaces; playgrounds; urban agriculture; an Environmental Education Center with classrooms to teach students about river systems; kayak and canoe launches; and of course, public art that shares the rich history of the region.

Forecast’s mission to advocate for public art that advances justice aligns with the values of the Bridge Park, the project’s cultural strategies, and the community-centered approach we’ve had since the beginning. Their commitment to local capacity building was critical to our collaboration.

WHAT IS OUR PUBLIC ART PROCESS?

Typically, a standing challenge of any project this size and scope is to maintain some type of efficient uniformity in organization and communication—both internally and externally—throughout the duration of the project. A transparent public art process that is easy to understand and easy to access is most inviting not only to applicants, but also to panelists who will be making tough, time-consuming decisions to select a finalist among a pool of tremendous talent. To ensure that these public artworks were anchored in a relationship of the surrounding communities, a Curatorial Committee made up of 9 members, including a member of the Bridge Park’s Design Review Committee with public art expertise, two youth selected by Project Create, two local artists and administrators who live and/or work in the community and also work at leading arts institutions, the lead architect from OMA, the lead landscape architect from OLIN, and finally the Director of the Bridge Park were assembled for the difficult task of selecting 5 artworks, each site-specific opportunity with its own criteria for success.

Over the course of 6-8 months, Forecast administered a public art selection process which included creating and distributing a custom RFQ, collecting and collating electronic submissions, responding to applicant inquiries, identifying a review panel, and virtually convening those panels 3 times. The panels met first, for a kickoff to communicate expectation, address biases, and create scoring rubrics; second, to select 3 finalists from a pool of eligibility; and lastly, to review 3 semi-finalist proposals. Do I make it sound easy? Well, in addition, we contract semi-finalists for their proposals, recommend contractual considerations for the finalist, and publish stories of our work in our newsletters, social media, and quarterly publication FORWARD.

In short, the Curatorial Committee serves as the community engagement soundboard for Forecast’s RFQ development, process, and implementation. They have already selected the winning artist for the Anacostia Approach artwork, whose budget was $400,000, and are currently in place to reviewing applications for the remaining four public art commission opportunities (a mural, a sound/light installation, a hammock grove, and a moveable kiosk) totaling $200,000. Are you interested in applying? Visit our web page about the projectapplications are due January 6, 2022. All 5 selections will be announced in Spring of 2022.

HOW DO WE DEFINE SUCCESS?

In many of Forecast’s projects, we conduct engagement and input sessions to build relationships across a community. We work to bring voices to the table that are conventionally muted, and create conditions at input sessions for stakeholders to be their full selves at input sessions. Engaging those who have long been disregarded helps ensure that public art projects resonate with a broad range of voices in a community. This also helps us learn who lives, works, or spends time in a place, who is making decisions, and who is left out. It also helps us understand the perceptions and reality of a community, processes, and systems, and where people are thriving, or merely surviving.

We utilize this information to determine project priorities and together, create a direction to guide us through a design of transparent processes. As an organization, Forecast envisions public art as a field reflecting the values of those fighting for equity, justice, and dignity.

That’s success to us! No matter where you live in the nation, if your project and partners gather around these same values guided by success, give us a call and maybe the next newsletter will feature your story!

The 11th Street Bridge Park will span the capital’s cityscape and include community generated
programming such as: outdoor performance spaces, playgrounds, urban agriculture, an education center, public art that shares the region’s rich history, and boat launches.

a sun sets behind a bridge spanning a river

MEET OUR TEAM

About Mark Salinas

I relocated to Nevada (population 3.1 M) from my neighborhood of Queens, NY (2.2 M) in 2016. Here in the high desert, I work remotely for Forecast Public Art while serving as board member for the City of Reno Arts & Culture Commission (Chair), the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts, the Nevada Arts Council, and Americans for the Arts PAN Council. I also curate an on-line arts education initiative, ‘The First Lady Presents…’ created in collaboration with Nevada First Lady Kathy Sisolak and the Nevada State Museum.

WE CAN HELP

In addition to creating your community engagement strategy, our team can also help you find and hire an artist!