Long-time public artist Mary Miss serves as the first artist-in-residence at New York City’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC), with a mandate "to change the culture of an agency known for its sometimes difficult relationships with architects."

Jen Kinney writes, "In the past 30 years, just 337 percent-for-art projects have been installed in the city, while thousands of construction and infrastructure projects have been undertaken in that same time."

In her DDC position, as well as through her nonprofit City as Living Laboratory, Miss sees ways to integrate public art into cities' infrastructural needs. For example, in Milwaukee, she proposes to "light the water treatment plant's stack so that it glows blue most of the time, but turns red the night before it's forecasted to rain. Through education, residents will understand this as encouragement not to run their dishwashers or washing machines or take baths until the storm has passed."

"When it comes to integrating artists at DDC, Miss offers three potential pathways: Artists could be hired as liaisons between a construction project and local residents, before, during and after construction; they could be brought on as a member of the design team; or they could apply to DDC as fellows."1

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“I’ve been doing public art all of my career, and really since the ’70s, I’ve felt artists should have a more central role in our cities and addressing issues. ‘Percent for art’ is fine,” she says, referring to popular programs that set aside 1 percent of capital project budgets for public art, “but usually you come in after the fact and late in the game.” ... The idea, she says, is to get DDC staff to understand what an asset artists can be. Miss points to a recent New York Times article about how the city’s new bioswales, installed en masse to capture stormwater runoff, are collecting trash and weeds, and annoying residents. “Nobody really thought about how you could make what those are doing apparent to people,” she says. Without seeing how these sites are connected to the larger project of managing stormwater and preventing flooding, she can understand why residents wouldn’t feel compelled to care for them.2

  • 1. https://www.planetizen.com/node/92920/activating-artists-urban-resource
  • 2. https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/integrating-artists-city-planning-projects