When asked by a friend if I was interested in becoming the volunteer organizer for the new art project “Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light” I was quite flattered but also a bit intimidated. I am not an artist, I can’t even claim that I’m an aspiring artist. While I appreciate art in my own way, I do not possess the education or background to properly express my appreciation. Fortunately, I set aside those thoughts and delved into the project that has been appreciated way beyond the borders of Spartanburg.
The City of Spartanburg was selected in 2015 as one of four temporary public art projects from across the United States to receive a grant award from the first-ever Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge. When I came on board, we were only a few weeks away from opening night on October 4th which is also the date that the City celebrates “National Night Out”.
On the team are police, healthcare workers, academics, artists, transportation employees, retirees, operations specialists, and city officials and employees. They had all worked for months on this project that was about to be revealed to the world.
Each Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light art installation represents, among other things, the connections that have been made among seemingly different people. They are glowing beacons for visitors and residents to become more connected to Spartanburg, their community and most importantly, to people they may think are very different from themselves.
With Seeing Spartanburg, art history takes a back seat to neighborhood history. That history as told by local residents led Austrian artist Erwin Redl, known for his large-scale light installations, to create the nine temporary art installations that are open until April 1 of 2017.
For most of us, we have a circle of friends, peers who share common interests, people who are much like us. Conversations are comfortable even during spirited debates. But some of most remarkable encounters in life happen when we step outside of that circle.
Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light’s art installations provide an opportunity for you to take pause in some places you may have otherwise never visited. You can make a solitary visit, take a group of family or friends or just sit in your car and study the art. But the greatest opportunity is the chance to talk to other people there you don’t know. The art is a great conversation starter!
I encourage everyone to visit a neighborhood art installation. View it and think about the many varied people involved in this project. Know that friendships have ignited and laughs and even a few recipes have been shared. Important conversations are taking place among the police, civic and community organizations, residents and visitors.
In the Bloomberg Philanthropies headquarters in New York City and cities all over the United States, people are talking about Spartanburg, South Carolina. We want you to join this conversation and maybe you too will see Spartanburg in a new light.
Since becoming a part of this project, I realize now that the intimidation I felt before was wasted energy. I am enjoying the glow of the positive energy that is flowing through Spartanburg. I even have a desire to learn more about art and get to know the artists who make our little corner of the world more interesting. Come glow with us!
More about Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light:
Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light, funded with a $1 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, and supplemental funding provided by regional institutions, corporations, foundations and private donors, is a partnership among artist Erwin Redl, the Chapman Cultural Center, the City of Spartanburg and civic leadership.
More about Erwin Redl:
Redl’s work is owned by prestigious national and international institutions, among them the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; the Milwaukee Art Museum; and Borusan Contemporary, Istanbul; as well as by private collectors.