Ann Pasternak Lectures at Smith: Nonprofit Creative Time Sponsors Public Art Projects

Nicole Wong '17 Arts Editor

Creative Time is an organization based in New York City that promotes public art and incites the public to have serious conversations about politics and society.

Ann Pasternak, the president of Creative Time, gave a talk at Smith College on Oct. 21; this is the 12th installment of the Miller Lecture series, established at SCMA in memory of Dulcy Blume Miller ’46. The lecture series enables the museum to bring a leading artist, architect or art historian to campus each year to give a public lecture.

The public has not always received public art positively, such as the work “Forever Marilyn” by Seward Johnson exhibited in Chicago. Locals thought that the artwork was crude and created just to attract attention. A similar piece of artwork that New Yorkers were critical of was “The Gates” in Central Park. Many artists struggle with the concept and have been reluctant to create public artworks. Yet, Pasternak shatters public art’s bad reputation and argues that it serves a monumental role within the art community.

Creative Time spearheaded important projects such as Paul Ramirez Jonas “Key to the City,” which brought the community together, Laurie Jo Reynold’s “Tamms Year Ten,” which closed down the inhuman Tamms prison, and most significantly, “Tribute in Light,” which honored the victims of 9/11; these projects pushed the boundaries of what people expected and showed that public art has the power to touch people’s lives and enact political change. Undoubtedly, some pose the questions “What is defined as Art? Are these practices even art?” because of the interactive nature and transience of certain Creative Time artworks, to which Pasternak answers, “Art is art if the artists say so.”

Artists are citizens who want to fulfill their role in society as creators, and use their power and citizenship to make change happen. They are leading the way in shaping the society we want to see. Creative Time helps artists to realize their visions, and it is important that artists are given a space to grow and learn outside of the art market, since the art world has become more materialistic.

The Creative Time-affiliated works ignite the public to think about our past, our present, and the direction our future is headed. Most importantly, this organization is distinctive because most of the projects are based in New York. Pasternak stresses that deliberately or not, our actions and inactions shape our futures. Power shouldn’t be left solely in the hands of politicians and corporations. It is important that art, is used to bring communities together, and create conversation about its function in a public space.