Coming soon: Grand Forks leaders meet public art finalists
Gordon Huether said that if Grand Forks wants it, he can have a public art project somewhere along 42nd Street before the end of the year. A stocky Californian with a goatee, he said the community just has to decide on a few specifics--such as wh...
Gordon Huether said that if Grand Forks wants it, he can have a public art project somewhere along 42nd Street before the end of the year. A stocky Californian with a goatee, he said the community just has to decide on a few specifics-such as where, exactly, the project will go.
"I don't have a signature style, because I'm not that guy that goes in the studio and works by himself," he told a group of local leaders at the North Dakota Museum of Art on Tuesday. "I'm the guy who works in the public realm and feels that my response to a community is to, in one way or another, capture the essence. ... I look at every project like it's my first time."
Huether is one of two finalists vying for a six-figure contract to build a 42nd Street art project, which will be awarded by the Public Arts Commission. The other, Bruce Munro of the United Kingdom, is visiting Grand Forks on Friday and Saturday to make his own case. Laurel Reuter, a member of the PAC search committee that has winnowed the field of artists from more than 80 down to two, said they're looking for a few broad qualifications.
"We want something that our audience will find enigmatic, beautiful, unexpected," she said, underscoring and interest in height and "light."
The project can be traced back several years, amid plans to line the 42nd Street corridor with public art-an idea that has since grown broader and drawn hundreds of thousands of dollars in investment. William C. Marcil, chairman of Forum Communications Company, donated $300,000 to back such projects in Grand Forks in July 2014; the Public Arts Commission was founded around the same time and has grown into a prominent Grand Forks arts organization; and the city of Grand Forks has spent $30,000, matched by an additional $30,000 in grant funding, to commission an "arts and culture master plan" for the city, which was unveiled in December 2015.
To PAC and the city, that document has been their guide toward a city dotted with public art and a funding and support clearinghouse for local arts groups. That means that a public art project on 42nd Street is only an early step. Barry Wilfahrt, a board member with PAC, said he hopes to see it happen alongside city moves to make that arts and culture plan more official.
But there are still questions to settle on the future of the 42nd Street project. The most obvious is the artists. Both Munro and and Huether are accomplished in their field, with works built or shown around the world-from Munro's "Field of Light," quite literally a field full of small pinpricks of colored light, shown in Australia, Scotland and elsewhere, to Huether's "Globussphare" in Lossburg, Germany, which looks vaguely like a large, delicate tumbleweed of glass.
Whoever wins the contract will have $200,000 in funding for the art, paid for out of the grant from Marcil, Wilfahrt said.
And there's also the question of location. Though several officials at the meeting Tuesday appeared to anticipate a location close to the intersection of 42nd Street and DeMers, City Administrator Todd Feland cautioned that the intersection could be the site of a $45 million underpass 10 years from now. Working around a public art project could become a headache for those building new infrastructure, he said, suggesting that somewhere further south on public property near the Alerus Center might be another option.
Feland said the city may help out with the project-likely by running electricity to the site of the installation, if required, or pouring a concrete pad. He said the city has hundreds of thousands of dollars in beautification money and the push for public art lends itself to growing the city. It's about making it somewhere both people and businesses want to move to, he said.
Nicole Derenne, the interim director for PAC, said it's still not clear exactly when everything with the project will be settled-from when an artist will be chosen to when a public art project will be finished.
"The best I can do is say that, at this point, the committee is still determining the timeline and what will happen moving forward," she said.