Public art is usually chosen by one of two kinds of committee – either corporate or bureaucratic. Sometimes both! So one of the draws of one of Long Island City’s newest outdoor works is in its unusual selection. A committee, yes, but one of teenagers.
“Meridian (Gold),” installed on June 9th on the seawall in Hunter’s Point South Park, is part sculpture, part public seating, part constant economic comment. It looks like a red, squared-off hot tub, with a pool of light, not water, at the center, and colored ‘steam’ always rising. The color varies from teal to magenta, based on the rapid fluctuations of the price of gold. It was designed by Mika Tajima, and chosen from a shortlist by a panel of 8 high school students.
The unusual arts committee was put together by the non-profit SculptureCenter. They were given a two-week course in public art, interviewed the shortlisted artists, and made their decision with a great deal of thought. And their involvement was not just a whim. The education program, called Public Process, is intended to get visitors to think about how public space is developed, who chooses what art we see, and why they make the selections they do.
“Meridian (Gold)” is not the kind of project that would be backed by more traditional commissioning processes, according to Mary Ceruti, the director of SculptureCenter.
“Public art juries are often composed of what are considered stakeholders in a site, and those conversations often end up being about maintenance, safety and who will pay to clean the work,” Ceruti says. “Those are things you must think about when you are dealing with public space and public money. But there are so many other, more interesting questions.”
The installation of “Meridian (Gold)” is intended to be a permanent one, but a new committee of students will be chosen in July to choose next year’s new piece.