Many Hands, Light Work: The Public Art of Bill FitzGibbons
"As a public artist, the people you meet who are the stakeholders for a project may not understand contemporary art or have the same understanding or appreciation for it that a curator does," Bill FitzGibbons notes. "So how do you make them part of the process without compromising your aesthetic vision?" Answering that question, says FitzGibbons, is one of the things that drew him to public art in the first place. "Sculptors are, by nature, social animals," he says. "Creating public art is really more of a social practice because it's not something you can do on your own. Entering into a dialog with stakeholders, going to neighborhood and city meetings, incorporating time capsules—it's part of what I love about this work." Collaboration extends to creation of the work, where he relies on the expertise and skill of subcontractors—engineers, electricians, fabricators, masons, architects, and contractors—to help create his vision and execute a successful project. "You can't be a public artist working by yourself in your studio trying to move thirty-foot I-beams around," he laughs. "The LED technology I use in my work today is constantly changing, and each site has its own unique characteristics. I develop a rendering and lay out the fixtures I want for a particular project, but not all fixtures work the same way. While I know all of the system requirements, I'm not an electrical engineer, so the project becomes a big collaboration between myself, the structural engineers, electrical engineers, and others."