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Percent for Art commissions artists whose work is shown around the world. Click through for a few of the exhibitions currently on view around New York City that feature work by Percent artists, including Xu Bing’s installation at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. 

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Behind the Scenes 

In addition to temporary art, the DOT Art Program collaborates with the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art program to commission permanent artwork throughout the City. Here is a behind the scenes look at the fabrication of a sculpture by Brian Tolle which will be installed on the Flatbush Avenue median in Brooklyn later this year. 

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PERCENT FOR ART INTERVIEW | ALISON SAAR

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Alison Saar is a Los Angeles native whose work explores themes of African cultural diaspora and spirituality. In November of 2008, Saar was commissioned for Swing Low, a powerful two-tone bronze statue of Harriet Tubman in a traffic island at West 122nd Street, St. Nicholas Avenue and Frederick Douglass Boulevard in Harlem. Below, Saar discusses her inspiration for the piece and how community input was integrated into this bold work of art. 

Percent for Art: How did you come up with the imagery of Harriet Tubman on locomotive tracks?

Alison Saar: When I was first invited to come in and develop an idea for this piece, I started doing research on Harriet Tubman.  I grew up in the 60’s when we were first learning about her and it was pretty superficial. I thought it was really important to see how she continued to put her own safety at risk, how she continued to put her own finances toward teaching other people in so many ways. I wanted to bring all those things to life in her story. 

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Located just outside the school cafeteria on the 5th floor terrace of the new FXFOWLE-designed Hunter’s Point campus in Queens , Natasha Johns-Messenger’s Percent for Art commission, Alterview, creates dramatic views of the Manhattan skyline.

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Yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg touted the progress that has been made on Staten Island since 2001. Among the accomplishments are 11 new permanent public art installations commissioned through Percent for Art, including Michael Falco’s Where Marsh Meets the Sea, a glass mural installed in the St. George Staten Island Ferry Terminal in 2007. Falco’s piece greets ferry passengers with hundreds of images interwoven to depict the borough’s maritime history.

 

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Sunrise Curtain, part of Russian-born artist Peter Rostovsky’s 2012 Percent for Art commission for IS/HS Spring Creek in Brooklyn, greets visitors with a large, pixilated sunrise above the school’s main entrance. The Percent installation also includes Sunrise Band—twelve adjacent oil paintings of different sunrises — in the school auditorium. Using the metaphor of the sunrise to allude to the dawn of knowledge, these two works welcome the viewer into the school, and back into the world as they leave the building. “I am particularly interested in how painting, as a traditional medium interfaces with new technologies,” says Rostovsky. His work brings an optimistic motif to the school while also casting a speculative eye to the technology that increasingly acts as a filter between us and the everyday. 

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Hardly apparent as an artwork during the day, the magic of Jim Conti’s light tower installation Assent Ascent fully reveals itself at night. image

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For two days every year, Open House New York (OHNY) Weekend gives the public a chance to engage more deeply with the built environment and learn about aspects of our city that are hidden in plain sight. This year Percent for Art commissions in two boroughs will be featured in the weekend’s activities on October 12 &13, located in New York Public Library’s Bronx Library Center, and Queens Public Library’s branches in Long Island City and Flushing. The pieces, pictured above, range from architectural elements like Yong Soon Min’s etched glass wall to interior features like Iñigo Manglano Ovalle’s exploration of DNA as a catalog, reflecting the diverse ways permanent art can enhance our public spaces.

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Earlier this week, Percent artist Carrie Mae Weems was named a 2013 MacArthur Foundation Fellow for her work “examining the complex and contradictory legacy of African American identity, class, and culture in the United States.”

publicartfund:

Congratulations to the 2013 MacArthur Fellows - especially 1988 Public Art Fund artist Carrie Mae Weems! See the rest of the extraordinary fellows here. 

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On September 10, local officials and community leaders gathered to unveil a new plaza in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. Marcy Plaza, located near the intersection of Marcy Avenue and Fulton Street, provides the neighborhood with brand new space for farmers markets, arts programming, people watching, and the myriad other uses New Yorkers find for public space. At the north end of the plaza, an intricate mosaic artwork is inlaid on the ground—Mathematical Star, a recently completed Percent for Art commission by Ellen Harvey.

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Zoom On Aug 17th, 2013, the renowned Greek American artist Stephen Antonakos passed away at the age of 86. Antonakos was famous for his neon art, an interest he “discovered” when walking the streets of New York one night in the late 1950s. In 1990 he received a public commission through Percent for Art to integrate his neon installation as part of the renovation of the  Marine Transfer Station at 59th Street. This work reflected his ideas about how purely geometric forms, “a vocabulary of great eloquence and efficiency,” can directly relate to architecture and space. Antonakos believed that neon alone “is capable of saying so much more,” since other unnecessary correspondences would limit the work’s meaning.[[MORE]] Besides the forms, strong and exciting color is another essential aspect of his work. Antonakos regarded color as something people naturally respond to, engaging viewers visually, spatially, and emotionally.
Antonakos’ explorations of the interaction between color and form will remain a vibrant part of the City’s public realm.

On Aug 17th, 2013, the renowned Greek American artist Stephen Antonakos passed away at the age of 86. Antonakos was famous for his neon art, an interest he “discovered” when walking the streets of New York one night in the late 1950s. In 1990 he received a public commission through Percent for Art to integrate his neon installation as part of the renovation of the  Marine Transfer Station at 59th Street. This work reflected his ideas about how purely geometric forms, “a vocabulary of great eloquence and efficiency,” can directly relate to architecture and space. Antonakos believed that neon alone “is capable of saying so much more,” since other unnecessary correspondences would limit the work’s meaning.

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Its craggy face crowned by blue sky, Ursula von Rydingsvard's 10,000 pound bronze sculpture Ona - which we wrote about last month - is being installed in front of the Barclay’s Center in downtown Brooklyn. You can learn more about von Rydingsvard’s Percent commission, along with hundreds of others, in the Percent for Art project directory

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Stylized fishing rods, angels, or maybe ankhs, depending on the angle (all with a disco ball finish) sit in the West Harlem Piers Park along the Hudson River Waterfront. Nari Ward’s 2008 Percent commission - Voice I, Voice II, Voice IV and Signage Rail - was inspired by area residents the artist observed fishing from the site while doing research for this set of stainless steel sculptures. 

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On July 25th, Mierle Laderman Ukeles gave a talk at MoMA PS1 in Queens as part of the Speculations (The Future Is ____) series.The hour-long lecture provided insight into the artist’s ecologically-themed work as well as her role as NYC Department of Sanitation’s first and only artist-in-residence for the past 36 years. The artist also discussed the design of her Percent for Art commission—supported by the Sanitation Department—for the 2,200-acre Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island, a former landfill being developed into the massive Freshkills Park.

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On July 17, the Public Design Commission’s annual Awards for Excellence in Design celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Percent for Art program. Signed into law in 1982 by Mayor Ed Koch and enacted the following year, the Percent for Art law became a model for other public art programs in the region.

In honor of this milestone, we revisit the fabrication of Percent’s first commissioned piece, Growth, a sculpture by Jorge Luis Rodriguez installed in East Harlem Art Park in 1985. The painted steel sculpture sprouts from the grounds of a formerly underutilized park—a community space transformed by this simple, dynamic work. Since the launch of Percent, the City has commissioned more than 300 projects in schools, courthouses, plazas, and other sites throughout the five boroughs, with 80 works currently in development. Click through to read about several new initiatives celebrating the 30th anniversary. 

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