The Art in Public Places Program of Aurora, Colorado strives to enhance the quality of life in Aurora by creating unique public places that build “strong communities and healthy economies.” In December 2016, Roberta Bloom, the Public Art Coordinator for the city, needed to get the word out about a major public art commission opportunity. The Central Recreation Center project had a budget of $400,000 and a goal to integrate art into the project from the very beginning.
The project was and still is today in the planning stages. Roberta and the city identified this as an opportunity for an artist team to collaborate with the architects and design team. They didn’t want art to be an afterthought, they wanted it woven throughout the new community building.
Before even breaking ground on the Central Rec Center, Roberta was able to find more budget for art, by overlapping some of the art budget with the construction budget. The city decided they wanted an “Aha!” moment starting from when you enter the facility. From there, the art would lead one through the building using a theme — taking community members on a journey, from the entrance to the locker room, to the pool.
As a Public Art Coordinator, Roberta has a network of local artists she can tap into, but for this project, she wanted to reach out nationally to a wider network and variety of artists. The Central Rec Center posed a unique challenge to find an artist team who could create outstanding artwork, and who were experienced collaborating with architects and engineers.
Roberta decided to find artists for the commission by advertising her Request for Qualifications (RFQ) through the CODAworx RFP Blast tool. The RFQ document stated the requirements for the project, described how the selected artist team would join a design team on a work in progress, and noted that the artists would be asked to explore the best sites for art.
She had an existing process for how she managed the applications, but what she really needed was to tap into a network of artists that she hadn’t seen before. As the international authority on commissioning art, CODAworx has a pool of 17,000 artists from around the world to whom Roberta could send her RFQ. She decided to target the opportunity to artists working in the mediums of: glass, flooring, wall art, suspended artwork, kinetic art, interactive art, interior and exterior architectural elements. CODAworx quickly sent the RFQ to Roberta’s targeted group of professional artists in two email blasts: once when she first scheduled the e-blast and again three days before the application deadline. As soon as the email went out, even over a holiday weekend in December, a “flurry of applications were coming in,” states Roberta.
The City of Aurora typically receives 30-60 applications for city art projects. After promoting this RFQ with the CODAworx RFP Blast tool, the State Arts Council, and other resources, 269 total applicants had applied by the deadline. According to Roberta, “They were all quality applications as well.” This gave her a tremendous pool of talent to choose from and allowed the city to raise the bar in the experience level of artists they would choose for finalists.
The art selection panel established basic criteria, looking for artists who had done a project of at least $200k and who had experience doing integrated art. This narrowed the pool to 79 artists and from there they juried the applicants to select three finalists. After an impressive in-person presentation based on only their qualifications, their professionalism, and how they addressed panel’s concerns, the artist team of David Griggs and Scott Parsons were selected for the Central Rec Center project.
David and Scott had strong experience working together on integrated art projects in the past. They both work heavily in glass and terrazzo but have a wide variety of experience in numerous materials. The panel liked how they could work in both 2D and 3D, and their experience in working with architect and design teams on integrated art projects.
Following the success of the Central Recreation Center, Roberta has since done another RFP Blast for a $200,000 memorial project honoring the innocent victims of a local movie theater shooting on July 20, 2012. This call received 151 applicants with a rush coming in up until two minutes before the deadline. After her successful experience reaching artists with the RFP Blast on these two projects, Roberta says she will definitely use CODAworx RFP tools in the future to reach new artists that can help forward the city’s goal of creating unique places for Aurora.
UPDATE: As of September 2017, David and Scott have an approved final proposal for the integrated artwork and have been given the go-ahead to begin building the art. The goal is for the artwork to be installed concurrently with the building construction timeline during summer 2018. Below are the approved final proposal images:
“We decided to use CODAworx eblast option to boost the reach of our Central Recreation Center call because of the size and scope of the project. We ended up with 269 applications (a significant increase!) representing many new artists. We were very pleased with both the number of artists who responded and the high quality of the work represented. The art selection panel felt that they were presented with excellent choices and are confident that they found the right artists for this early integration/design team project.”
Roberta Bloom, Public Art Coordinator, City of Aurora
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