This was a public art project for the DC Commission for the Arts. Built in the 1930s, Anacostia High School is located in the historically rich southeast portion of Washington, D.C. The school was being remodeled from top to bottom and I was asked to fill the cafeteria atrium with mobiles. So I took pix of the students, combined their life-size silhouettes with Frederick Douglass’s answer to a question about civil rights, and hand-painted up the letters A-G-I-T-A-T-E on cut foam core.
Almost all of my work is based on the figure and I knew that a teeming school of teeners is figure city. So as I've done before, I sat down, watched the world go by, and took hundreds of photos. Photoshopped these into high contrast line drawings, superimposed them to give it a bit of abstraction, combined them with the AGITATE letters, and hand-brushed them in acrylic over the shaped foam core. The artwork goal was filling the space with interesting mobiles. But, as with any public art piece, it's a function of the budget. Using box joints to join the seven letters in two units seemed to do the trick and the $50K was just about right.
The box joints were cantilevered one to the other in the two units. One was of three segments, the other of three. AGITATE. Tied together with cables, they were a balancing act. My friends in LA did a run through, with Yami Duarte, Mary Wentz, and Ron García tweaking the tension on the cables and making notes for the installation. My installation crew of Nick Collier, Joey Chanel, and Charlie Swan from George Mason University did the rest in DC.
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CODA: Collaboration of Design + Art
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Art matters. Attention to the details of our environment leads to love of place, which brings us to take responsibility for the spaces where we live and work. And by extension, the people with whom we live and work. And by extension, to our local communities, our cities, our nations, and our world.
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