Reclaim Market Street!

Reclaim Market Street exhibition still

Kiosk from the exhibition at SPUR in San Francisco

Reclaim Market Street! is an exhibition and series of public programs created by the Studio for Urban Projects and hosted by SPUR (the San Francisco Planning + Urban Research Association), in San Francisco, CA.

Studio for Urban Projects is an art and design collaborative that, according to their website, “perceives art as a means of advancing civic engagement and furthering public dialogue.” Together, the Studio’s core members–Alison Sant, Richard Johnson, Marina McDougall, Kirstin Bach and Daya Karam–operate a storefront in the Mission District of San Francisco and have created public art projects for the city of Seattle, and the 2010 01SJ Biennial.

Installation shot from Reclaim Market Street! exhibition by Studio for Urban Projects

This research-based exhibition largely consists of a curated set of examples of public projects and interventions that have had positive impacts in other cities that is held together by a clever exhibition design consisting largely of cardboard–cardboard seats, walls, signage, kiosks, and even flooring. The meat of the project lies in its public programs of walking tours, guided bike rides, impromptu parks, and outdoor events that challenge the public to participate in redefining what they expect from (and how they interact with) city streets.


Applications available to the public as part of the exhibition at SPUR.

Indoors, I found the way the exhibition challenges people to take immediate action most refreshing. Within SPUR are work stations displaying applications where you can immediately apply to “Create a Park,” “Make Your Own Bike Lane” or “Plant the Sidewalk.” Outdoors, their project is about gathering people together to acknowledge history while contributing to aspirational scenarios of the future.

This project is a perfect example of how artists are using their practice to help create solutions to real-world problems. Market Street is the central transit corridor of San Francisco. On one side is Ferry Plaza and the bustling Financial District, on the other side is the colorful Castro District where shops and cafes line the street. In the middle is the Central Market District. Originally a theater district, years of economic decline have left it more known for strip clubs, panhandlers, graffiti, and empty storefronts. The City of San Francisco has launched a revitalization campaign and other organizations such as the San Francisco Arts Commission and Gray Area Foundation for the Arts have been actively working to literally bring art to the street.

Jackson Strand theater with public art

Paz de la Calzada painting Central Market Dreamscape, 2011. Mural, 1127 Market Street, San Francisco. Courtesy of the ARTery Project, San Francisco Arts Commission. Photo: Lydia Gonzales.

Reclaim Market Street! adds to this local dialogue and is about using Market Street as muse in a public conversation around expand the use cases for city streets beyond automobile traffic to include safe and engaging spaces for bikers and pedestrians. Because Central Market Street District is a place people are more likely to pass through quickly, Studio for Urban Projects has created a framework that challenges people to spend time on the street. A particularly interesting program that will take place on October 15th is “Temporary Urban Experiments in Creating New Public Spaces.” Child-friendly urban planning more often than not sequesters children within fenced off playgrounds. But what if play was incorporated back into street life?

imagination playground inage from new york

The Imagination Playground installed near South Street Seaport in New York City. Image courtesty of

For this project, they are featuring the Imagination Playground Kit designed by David Rockwell and the Rockwell Group within an urban plaza that is normally dominated by concrete.

With public funds for the arts dwindling, revitalization of cities through the arts and culture is one area that is receiving greater attention in recent times. As an example, the NEA is echoing this call for a revitalization of cities through the arts by recently announcing its inaugural “Our Town” grants that help 51 communities, including San Francisco and San Jose, CA, revitalize their neighborhoods through strategies involving the arts. Creative placemaking is a challenge to reclaim our urban centers, which is precisely what Studio for Urban Projects is doing in focusing their energies toward the Central Market Street District.

Much of what Studio for Urban Projects suggests is common sense. Safe and scenic bike paths through the city, reclamation of under utilized spaces, and a move away from automobile centric civic design. It’s the thoughtfulness of the exhibition design and their collaborative ethos (Reclaim Market Street! also showcases contributions by Futurefarmers, Rebar, and the San Francisco Bike Coalition) that works best in using the arts to promote conversations that have the potential to create lasting change.

So the question is, what urban spaces would you like to reclaim?

Art X Detroit – New Works in the Public Realm

Public Address invited Cezanne Charles to guest blog about Art X Detroit. See also her earlier post on Transitions, Transformations, and Traditions – Artist’s Role in the De-industrial City.

Art X Detroit was a five-day multidisciplinary celebration that exclusively presented newly commissioned works created by the 2008-2010 Kresge Eminent Artists and Artists Fellows, from April 6-10, 2011 with an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit ( MOCAD) and public art continuing to April 24, 2011. An exciting program of dance and musical performances, literary readings, workshops, panel discussions, public art and special exhibitions, Art X Detroit was hosted at more than a dozen venues located throughout Midtown Detroit’s Cultural Center and was free to the public. Art X Detroit is supported by the Kresge Foundation.

For this first outing audiences were given the opportunity to cloud spot and shoe gaze. They could make and march wire cars in an inspired dream cruise. They could brixelate their city online and see their brixelations on buildings throughout midtown. They could view a new permanent work of public art from one of Detroit’s legendary artists and for 5 days they could pound the pavement of Detroit’s cultural corridor that encompasses Cass, Woodward and John R from Hendrie to Harper. Just the pedestrian activity that these 5 days generated made this car town feel like a different city. The festival attracted standing room only crowds for the majority of the events and a packed to capacity opening at MOCAD with live performances ensured a highly charged start to it all. While April 6 – 7 at Rust Belt to Artist Belt were devoted to discussing and showing the way that artists and creative practitioners can transform a region through a hybrid and socially engaged practice, Art X Detroit presented how artists can transform a region through – art.

This was ecstatic practice from the Kresge Eminent Artists and Artist Fellows. The public art included what will be a new permanent work by Charles McGee, Spirit Renewal.

Cloudspotting and Detroit Weather: 365 days video projection © Susan Goethel Campbell. Photo Cezanne Charles

Artist Susan Goethel Campbell offers us a guide to Cloudspotting Detroit, which focuses on the unique atmosphere of Detroit. The accordion-style brochure includes a key to identify cloud types and a map showing a bike route to interesting cloud spots in the city. Clouds in this case are manmade and often the result of industry, but there are also natural cloud formations included. Wheelhouse Detroit will be arranging guided tours of the suggested route later this season. This is a different point of view of Detroit – science meets art, meets phenomena and eventually meets bikes.

Wire Car Cruise, Video Projection: a Dance for Diego; Sculptural Object: me me me © Chido Johnson. Photo Cezanne Charles

Chido Johnson’s Wire Car Cruise is a public performance/action – a wire-car cruise on the historical Woodward Avenue was performed to the formation of Detroit’s version of Soul Train, The Scene. The participants made their dream car and chose their favorite cruising song for the performance. The cruising music and wire-cars made by diverse communities within Detroit, its vicinity and others as far as Zimbabwe, was exhibited in the lobby of the old Dalgleish Cadillac Dealership, now TechTown and a video, titled a Dance for Diego documenting the performance was shown at MOCAD. Chido, a native Zimbabwean, creates cross-cultural transpositions and transformations in his work making links between Detroit, the US and Africa. In this case the making of wire cars pushed with sticks is a cultural practice popular in the southern and central regions of Africa and Woodward Avenue is where the Highland Park Ford Plant became the first automobile production facility in the world to implement the assembly line. Woodward Avenue for years served as the home of the US auto industry and in the 50s spawned woodwarding or crusing the boulevard.

Brixels © Cedric Tai. Photo Cezanne Charles

Cedric Tai created the project Brixels, a web-based and physical mural project for midtown Detroit. Tai’s Brixel project is designed as a “generative piece of art, that evokes textiles and Razzle Dazzle Battleships from WWI by drawing parallels between the camouflaged ships that eluded their enemies and a city that avoids being reduced to an essentialized narrative.” Visitors were asked to join the process through creating their own tessellations at

Street Folk © Tyree Guyton. Photo Cezanne Charles

Finally, inestimable and inimitable Tyree Guyton created the public installation Street Folk, formed from 10,000 paired and unpaired discarded and donated shoes. This piece highlighted the plight of the homeless in Detroit and once again sees him using his abilities to engage critically into the social and environmental fabric of the city.

The public art that was part of Art X Detroit really didn’t deal with a broken city or its broken buildings, which perhaps is both compliment and critique in general to the public art that largely is created by artists that are located here. Much of the public depictions that come by way of the New York Times and recent photo books of the city follow the formula of ruin porn – and while some of the photography is beautiful, haunting and yes filled with promise and opportunity – it is harder perhaps to depict the illusive, ephemeral and transient. This is exactly what these artists have tried to capture. As exciting as these projects were, for me it was the public coming out in droves for a series of art events that will stay with me now that Art X Detroit has come to a close.

Cezanne Charles is an artist and curator who co-founded the hybrid art & design practice rootoftwo. She is Director of Creative Industries at ArtServe Michigan and directs the professional development program from the Kresge Artist Fellows.

Photo credits: Cezanne Charles

Northern Spark nuit blanche

Northern Spark

Northern Spark homepage

For one night only, more than 60 regional and national artists together with the Twin Cities’ arts community will display new art installations at public places and unexpected locations throughout the city. Directed and produced by Northern, Northern Spark takes place this summer from sunset on June 4 (8:55 p.m.) until the morning of June 5, 2011 (sunrise 5:28 a.m.).

The Northern Spark event will include a wide diversity of art forms and projects including multi-story projections, audio environments with vistas, installations traveling down the Mississippi on barges, houseboats and paddleboats, headphone concerts, and the use of everything from bioluminescent algae and sewer pipes for organs to more traditional media such as banjos and puppets.

The event is a collaboration of more than 40 partners, each of which will sponsor one or more projects for the duration of the night. The goal is to showcase the urban splendor of the Twin Cities in a unique way, introducing a broad and diverse audience to innovative local and national talent in an inspiring journey through the night.

Participating artists

Participating artists involved in the nuit blanche include Christopher Baker, Phillip Blackburn, The BodyCartography Project, Bart Buch, Jim Campbell, Barbara Claussen, Wing Young Huie, John Kim, Suzanne Kosmalski, Debora Miller, MAW, Ali Momeni, Janaki Ranpura, Red76, Rigo 23, rolu, Jenny Schmid, Andrea Stanislav, Piotr Szyhalski, Roman Verostko, Diane Willow, Works ProgressMarcus Young, and others.

Participating organizations

Northern Spark participating organizations include: 1419 Artists in Residence, All My Relations Art, American Composer’s Forum, The Art Institutes International Minnesota, Art Shanty Projects, Beijing Film Academy, Black Dog Cafe + Wine Bar, Burnet Gallery at Le Meridien Chambers Minneapolis, College of Visual Arts, The Film Society Minneapolis/Saint Paul, Forecast Public Art, Franklin Art Works, The Friends of Saint Paul Public Library, Highpoint Center for Printmaking, Intermedia Arts, Kulture Klub Collaborative, Landmark Center, Macalester College, MAW, McNally Smith College of Music, Le Meridien Chambers Minneapolis, Midway Contemporary Art, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minnesota Museum of American Art, mn original,, Mpls Photo Center, Northern, Northrop Concerts and Lectures, Public Art Saint Paul, Rain Taxi Review of Books, Regis Center for Art, Saint Paul Public Library, Schubert Club, Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory,  Science Museum of Minnesota, Soap Factory, SooVac, W Minneapolis-The Foshay, Walker Art Center

Supported by

Northern Spark is made possible in part by a grant provided by the Minnesota State Arts Board, through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature from the Minnesota arts and cultural heritage fund with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008.

Connect to Northern Spark




Tools for (accessing) action

Actions: What You Can Do With the City Canadian Centre for Architecture Actions: What You Can Do With the City presents 99 actions that instigate positive change in contemporary cities around the world.

Actions: What You Can Do With the City Canadian Centre for Architecture Actions: What You Can Do With the City presents 99 actions that instigate positive change in contemporary cities around the world.

I didn’t see the exhibition but part of what caught my attention is the symmetry between the web interface and the proposed/enacted actions in the city, which is nevertheless not merely literal. Clicking on the ball identifies 5 actions from #79 Paint Grows Soccer Field to #48 Ping Pong Connects Neighbors.

Football Field 1. Maider López. Sharjah Art Museum, United Arab Emirates, 2007. © Maider López

Football Field 1. Maider López. Sharjah Art Museum, United Arab Emirates, 2007. © Maider López

You can combine tools as well, so that the coveralls link to 8 actions from #61. Bicycle Plants Wartime Gardens
(Futurefarmers’ Victory Garden project) to #40 Wheels Give Superpowers. But if you add a bench to your toolset, you get Foamy Velour Suits Challenge Authority.

The integration of interface and concept may or may not change the world, but it’s refreshing to see a site that still tries to be an experience for the experience, and the projects are great to browse through. I’m thinking of taking up #41 Guns Seed Vacant Lots this spring.

Plant the Piece is a symbolic seed-bomb production project.

Plant the Piece is a symbolic seed-bomb production project.

Why nuit blanche?

Bring to Light from Max Tiberi on Vimeo.

Brooklyn Street Art: We’re always talking about the intersection of Street Art, Urban Art, Public Art, Performance, Projection Art – do you think that there is a growing interest among city dwellers in reclaiming public space for art?

Ethan Vogt: Yes, Yes, Yes! – I think this festival really struck a chord and that people looking for an authentic, non-consumer, artistic, participatory, and community experience.

Ken Farmer: I think there is a growing interest in authentic, and interactive public art. We are in a beautiful era of D.I.Y. culture. The big, corporate commissioned public art pieces in lifeless lower Manhattan plazas are old news. People want something more relatable and more dynamic. We are seeing a proliferation of low-cost, pop-up elements in public spaces. Some may see it as art, others as amenity, either way…its terrific.

Interesting interview with the organizers of the recent NYC nuit blanche, Bring to Light.

via Huffington Post

See also Bring to Light and Northern Spark.

Speakers’ Corners

Carlos J. Gómez de Llarena, The Urban Speaker at the 2010 Conflux Festival. via Alias Arts

There are many “updates” to the traditional Speaker’s Corner, including Monica Sheets’ Free Speech Machine and Daniel Jolliffe’s One Free Minute. What I particularly like about Carlos J. Gómez de Llarena’s The Urban Speaker is the way it uses signage and the semiotics of construction sites to both call attention to the piece and to camoflauge it in the urban environment.

Scaffolding – backbone for and as art

I’ll be writing a full preview of the upcoming 01SJ Biennial this week, but this “urban nest” (via Alias Arts) reminds me of the central role that Madrid-based architect Angel Borrego Cubero’s scaffolding design for Out of the Garage, Into the World sets the stage for a different way of thinking about the “exhibition.”

Luzinterruptus - "little birds inhabiting scaffolding'

Some images of Angel’s design from the 01SJ publication (designed by Matthew Rezac).

Angel Borrego Cubero, South Hall design, Out of the Garage, Into the World

He writes in the catalog.

Some Principles

Working Space

The architectural concept for Out of the Garage, Into the World should be as close as possible to that of the exhibition itself, to what the curators are trying to achieve, and to what the artists themselves are doing. We should achieve the transformation of the exhibition into a working space, in which the processes are transparent to the public. Its architecture should not rely on dividing and blocking parts of the space, but rather should help bring work and public together.

Public Space

The public should experience an atmosphere that involves them, that places them in the space of work and empowerment. This atmosphere should produce the fascination and anticipation of entering a good restaurant through the kitchen.

Exhibition Space

Agglomeration, juxtaposition, sharing, decking, groupings, and, in general, the renegotiation of the limits of the artwork should give way to a rethinking of what it is to organize an exhibition and offer a new paradigm of how these elements and actions can be understood. From schemes that suggest the master plans of suburbia, we would like to propose exhibitions that evaluate more dense, collaborative, and diverse urban and architectural strategies.

Of course, the urban nests are also reminiscent of Misako Inaoka’s Red Bird, which is included in the Small Wonders wundkerkammer curated by ZER01 for the amazing public art program at the San Jose airport. You gotta fly into there sometime.

Small Wonders installation view, San Jose airport. Photo Jaime Austin

Small Wonders installation view, San Jose airport. Photo Jaime Austin

Small Wonders flickr set by Jaime Austin.

Save the date – Wing Young Huie, University Avenue Project

Wing Young Huie, University Avenue Project Save the date May 1, 2010

Wing Young Huie, University Avenue Project Save the date May 1, 2010

“In 2010 photographer Wing Young Huie in collaboration with Public Art Saint Paul will transform St. Paul’s University Avenue into a 6-mile public gallery of 500 photographs revealing the complex cultural and socioeconomic diversity of neighborhoods along this urban corridor. Photographs will be exhibited in store windows and on buildings and will be projected at night onto large outdoor screens accompanied by pre-recorded and, at monthly events, live music.” –

Wing Young Huie, University Avene Project opens May 1, 2010

Wing Young Huie, University Avene Project opens May 1, 2010

Mercado Negro

“LA-based cross-media visual designer Ramón Coronado has built a swing, lounge chair, table and a lamp out of shopping carts: Mercado Negro meaning Black Market in Spanish is a 12 week project that deals with reclaiming an ordinary, everyday object and transforming it into a whole new object. At the same time hinting at the lack of parks and recreational functions in Los Angeles.”

via Archinect