Petite Public Art

I really, really miss the Domain project. It got artists out in the open (literally), it pushed them to try something new, it challenged the notions of what ‘art’ (and furthermore ‘public art’) should be/is, it caught audiences unaware, everyone had a helluva lot of fun and got to go to the pub after. When curating events for this year’s You Are Here festival, I knew this was the sort of thing I was hoping to achieve. I was also still heavily inspired by last year’s ANCA exhibition Pin (you may recall me raving about), which gathered a huge number of local artists working to a very specific brief to fantastic ends. To seal the deal, You Are Here had no indoor spaces suitable for exhibiting artwork. Rather than not exhibit artwork, I had to find another solution. It was this combination of inspiration and necessity that led to Petite Public Art.

I described the event as thus:

Canberra has had an unfair reputation for investing bazillions in large scale public artworks and just plonking them down any old where. To take a different tack, You Are Here has invited a street team of Canberra artists to festoon their city with public art of the more covert variety. In cracks in the pavement, on windowsills and in flowerboxes, tiny sculptures and interventions infiltrate the city, going unnoticed to the masses, but rewarding those who take the time to look a little more closely.

I sent artists a project brief, asked them to choose a sneaky spot in the city, and Petite Public Art was on its way. Once everyone had settled on a location, I got to work on a walking map. For some reason I drew it by hand. I guess I just wanted to be in on the action.

On Friday March 9 we launched Petite Public Art at Canberra Museum and Gallery as a part of the You Are Here festival program. CMAG was to act as a starting point for the ‘tour’ and generously dispatched the maps on our behalf. The artists were excited, but I had no idea as to whether the project would fly with audiences. The map was quite vague, the works were challenging and widespread – it asked a lot of the viewer in order to gain reward. But no sooner had the speeches concluded groups of folk were spotted out in the March evening, maps clutched in hand, scouring high and low to locate these artistic treasures, looking not unlike people who had lost their marbles. Best of all – they were having a good time.

For those of you who missed out, here is a near-complete Petite Public Art in pictures…

Dan Edwards contributed this gem over near Harvest cafe. It disappeared towards the end of the festival, and I can only hope that whoever got their mitts on it appreciate how great a work it is.

Dan Edwards (photo by Adam Thomas)

Al Munroe contributed some stunning gold pieces from her ‘Patterns That Aren’t’ series. They spoke beautifully to the CMAG architecture on which they were located. So much so that when the time came for removal CMAG asked if they could stay. I strongly suggest you check it out if you can – the photo doesn’t do them justice!

Al Munroe

One of the harder works to find but probably one of the most amusing – a chewing gum construction by Adam Veikkanen:

Adam Veikkanen

And this one by Dan Stewart-Moore definitely took the title for most challenging to locate, but the tiny door is so incredibly finished – it looks as though it’s been there forever! I hope it suitably freaks out some members of the public, or is spotted by a small child who will remain ever-convinved that fairies really do exist.

Dan Stewart-Moore (photo by Adam Thomas)

Jess Casha’s mirror installation was simple and gorgeous, catching your eye with its glint, reflecting the sky and the trees in the middle of the city.

Jessica Casha

Jacqui Bradley’s beautiful signpost interventions were so well executed that I’m sure they would have survived far longer than the ten days of the festival. I wish they all could stay!

Jacqueline Bradley

Adam and Fiona Veikkanen submitted a collaborative piece; Here it is – or rather they are – in progress…

Adam & Fiona Veikkanen

…Before being placed into their chosen location! They didn’t last long, but that’s understandable. The racing snails will still be out there somewhere.

Adam & Fiona Veikkanen

Helani Laisk made these beautiful soft additions to a very dull wall in Petrie Plaza. They kept being taken, but she would replace them just as quickly!

Helani Laisk

Jonathan Webster scattered some of his tiny works at the foot of a tree amongst the pebbles. This was a nice piece to sit next to and contemplate.

Jonathan Webster (photo by Adam Thomas)

Simon Scheuerle – just as cheeky as ever. A humble package that wasn’t going anywhere for anyone.

Simon Scheuerle (photo by Adam Thomas)

This installation by Poppy Malik looked great by night – when the street lamps caught the glitter and it came aglow.

Poppy Malik (photo by Adam Thomas)

Newcomer to Canberra Karen Cromwell got involved, placing her work at one of the power boxes in Riverside Lane. The project has been a great excuse to get people into parts of the city they may not even know exist, this lane being one good example.

Karen Cromwell

Tree fungi by Tiffany Cole. I think a lot of people would have been easily fooled by this one!

Tiffany Cole

….And some mushrooms in the undergrowth. The burst of colour was great.

Tiffany Cole

More snails! These gorgeous works by Jessica Kelly were nestled outside Smiths Bookshop. There were originally five, but these were reduced to three by mid festival. As with the other works that mysteriously vanished during the project, I hope the new owners are damn well appreciative!

Jessica Kelly

As you can see, not all seventeen works made it through the ten days of the festival. In the unfortunate case of one artist the work was removed even before the launch (apologies again Nat!). I am so grateful to all the artists involved for their flexibility and great attitude towards the project. I’m also grateful for the patience and sense of humour our audiences demonstrated in their participation. If I take on a project of this nature again (and I would like to) I think a shorter duration would be beneficial – giving audiences the best chance of seeing as many of the works as they can in their original state.

I have always enjoyed stumbling across little interventions in the city, wondering who put them there or how they came to be – whether they are intentional or entirely by accident. I hope that Petite Public Art created some moments like this for people who had no idea of the project, and I hope it added something to their day, be it pleasing or perplexing, whether they care about ‘art’ or not. I also hope the project encourages people to keep intervening.

Petite Public Art is reviewed in the latest issue of BMA Magazine. Check it out HERE



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