Public Displays of Art: Creative Time Fosters Art in the Public Realm (New York, NY)

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  Photo of Anne Pasternak

Anne Pasternak is the Executive Director of Creative Time. Photo courtesy of Creative Time

For more than 30 years the New York City-based arts organization Creative Time has curated arts projects that engage artists and communities in a public dialogue, including Tribute in Light, the twin beacons of light that illuminated Ground Zero as a memorial six months after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. According to executive director Anne Pasternak, Creative Time works with artists to create public art that is "timely and thought-provoking, new and adventurous."

Pasternak said it's important to bring art outside of the museum. "Artists don't exist in a vacuum and art shouldn't either," she explained. "Art in the public realm activates public space for its intended democratic purpose. Through surprise encounters with art, people are often inspired and provoked in unpredictable and exciting ways."

While "public art" often refers to permanent installations, such as Alexander Calder's Flamingo stabile in downtown Chicago, Creative Time takes a different approach. Pasternak explained, "Our projects are always temporary, which gives artists a lot more freedom... We don't want to just impose a project on an artist. We want the artist to really be immersed, really become part of people's lives through the project."

Following 2005's Gulf Coast hurricanes, for example, Creative Time supported productions of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot in two hurricane-devastated New Orleans neighborhoods, its first project outside of New York. Pasternak said, "[The themes] seemed so central to people, whether waiting for relief efforts, electricity to come back on, insurance funding, [or] schools to reopen."

Pasternak acknowledged the NEA's catalytic support for public art. "Early support from the NEA helped us to give artists opportunities to experiment at a time when there were few galleries and museums willing to work with living artists. Today the NEA's support helps us get major projects off the ground, support artists' ambitions dreams, engage diverse audiences around the country, and so much more."