I sometimes feel lost, like I'm floating through my public art experiences not fitting in a 'role' or recognized path – I'm not a curator, I'm not an educator, I'm not an artist. I work in public art, without a discernible identity. I used to joke with colleagues that we are un-certified construction managers, un-trained engineers, facilitators and amateur therapists, a million things while maybe being nothing at all. It can feel like a specialized education or experience in public art doesn't mean as much when it's the public realm, because there are so many involved in creating it, curating it, building it; we get classified as just pushing contracts for pretty steel objects.
While some days I dont feel optimistic, other days I know it's facing my feelings, losing fear and taking ownership of the role no matter how vague or not-understood. I also know we need public art therapy (I think I can safely speak for many of my friends and colleagues in the field who have shared similar or related feelings). I try to remind myself that we are, in fact, a WE and we are many strong! I can feel like a wanderer all I want, daily, but the bigger picture and longer-term always brings me back to the thing: the art, the artists and the critical nature of our work.
It helps to acknowledge the insane amounts of credit that are due to the amazing skills of a good project manager, administrator. It makes an identifiable difference to a person, a project, and I've seen first-hand how taking ownership, asserting leadership and confidence in the process can set the necessary path for the best experience to happen.
By knowing the broader context and being aware of public art beyond our projects, our programs/organizations and our cities, by keeping informed and knowledgable, I assert my pride and professionalism in being part of the bigger 'art system' and not needing external acknowlegement of that. The work and the artists' experience is the success, the criticality is the succes. And we as a group can be the strength needed to keep pushing.
Sharing resources and creating opportunities to talk to the many other public art managers who struggle and lose and win in all kinds of ways, is a critical part of the 'healing'. That's one of the reasons I started a regular public art round-table event, so colleagues, regional and national when possible, can come together and talk, share, learn, grow and yes, play psychologist to each other. We haven't yet changed the public art world, but everytime we gather, I feel we are honestly steps closer and more 'weightless' having shared our joys and agonies.