About 601 Tully

Check out our new website! 601Tully.syr.edu

601 Tully is a center for engaged practice in Syracuse, NY developed by artist and professor Marion Wilson with a rotating collaborative team of 54 students and neighbors and Anda French of French 2Design. It's a site for meaningful exchange between artists, community members, and scholars in the co-production of culture.

601 Tully includes a contemporary art space, a public events space, a bookstore, a teaching garden, and Recess Cafe West.

In 2009, Wilson purchased the condemned two-story home and local drug hub, and throughout five semesters, Wilson's design/build class re-zoned, designed, renovated and now sustains the physical and programmatic aspects of 601 Tully. The collaborative team has consisted of artists, architects, environmentalists, Fowler High School students, Green Train Workforce, neighbors, and the occasional passerby.

601 Tully is made possible by the generous support of the Syracuse University School of Education, The Kauffman Foundation, The Near West Side Initiative, Imagining America, Home HeadQuarters Inc., Say Yes to Education, and National Grid.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sponsoring Agency

At the smallest scale, the scale of the individual, my contributions support the agenda of 601 Tully, that is, to impart positive change on the social and political landscape of the Near West Side. Geographically, the Near West Side delineates a unique set of challenges and issues which create an interesting debate about what it means to invest in this neighborhood. How do we as an interdisciplinary group identify a problem in this community and decide to engage an audience with public art? Does the audience choose us, or do we choose the audience? As a class, we have discussed the who, what, where, when, why, and how as a catalyst to address particular imperatives in communities, and have even discussed misconception in which the word “community” creates in related discourse. As the who (or at least one among many) I am an outsider to Syracuse, and my involvement with 601 Tully works to fill in a framework that was created long before my involvement. If I am to regard myself as an artist of this “new genre public art”, or at the very least, a collaborator, I think it important to consider the following fundamental truths which Kwon discusses:

“The artist can either find themselves assigned to a certain community group by the sponsoring agency or be given a list of groups to choose from. Thus, contrary to the promotional rhetoric that describes community collaborations as the result of an organic and dialogical relationship between the artist and the community, representing a set of mutual interests at the origin of the collaboration, the overall structure, procedure, and goals of the projects, including their conceptualizations most often precede the engagement with any such community.”

Regarding Sculpture Chicago, Kwon discusses how this initiative was successful in “forging partnerships…between the artists and the local groups.” This new genre public art does only exist through organic relationships, and it should not be regarded as inauthentic if community-based initiatives are a result of said collaboration. It is this mediation that protects the best interests of the community for which the art is attempting to benefit. If it was not for this mediator between artists and local groups, community-based initiatives would be overshadowed by the agenda of the artists, regardless of if positive social and political change was achieved. The political and social framework that defines a particular need in the Near West Side has already been established by the people who live there, as well as the government which recognizes these challenges. 601 Tully presents itself as a platform for which community and artist involvement can perpetually collaborate. The project itself exists in a state of unresolve which allows someone in my position, now and in the future, to bring meaning through their own contributions. Moreover, 601 and the social sculpture class itself address the issue of “critical unsiting” advocated by Kwon. Despite its geographic location in the Near West Side, we have constantly questioned our involvement and practices in the area; is the site what defines the community or the community what defines the site? By haphazard association, the entire community is in danger of being overgeneralized by artistic intervention. This is examined by Kwon in the discussion between Teddy Cruz and Rick Lowes about Project Row Houses. Therefore it is our responsibility to provide an adaptive social infrastructure to address the needs of a community which they define.

As a student of architecture at Syracuse, I regard myself as a liaison between artifacts and catalysts; form and function; process and product. By focusing on these components at multiple scales I can provide critical perspective and offer innovative solutions to influence social improvements. Though it sounds vague, I believe it is the architect’s responsibility to provide these solutions on so many different levels, and unfortunately this can lead us to have an identity crisis, both in how the public views us and how we view ourselves.


  1. This does make me question my professional a bit more in terms of site. When I think about site as an explicit geographic location defined by opportunity, market driven purposes, and/or client needs, I am now aware of this new, thinly defined issue regarding a "critical unsiting." In an urban context, I would intuitively resort to a system or infrastructure to engage a community, rather than choose a site to define one. I believe this supplies broader provisions for communities to associate themselves to a particular need and avoid being overgeneralized.

    When I was in Detroit, I, and my 606 studio, visited Bloom Town, a project that symbolically gestures to the blight and supposed rebirth of the ailing city. Tulips are planted mono-chromatically in clearly outlined swaths that represent once-existing homes on vacant lots. Though it raises awareness, I challenge the notion that this community actually needs to be reminded of it's own hardships, and instead needs a solution to some of its many shortcomings. For instance, this particular "community garden" could address the food desert issue among 75% of the population in Metro Detroit. There are urban gardens that utilize vacant land, but instead of acting as a catalyst, I wonder if Bloom Town was surreptitiously interested in a purely aesthetic agenda. Is it safe to question the resilience of this project since Kwon measures the sustainability of a project based on the artist’s “intimate and direct knowledge of his respective neighborhood and those living in them."?

    This also raises the issue of an architect/artist prescribing their own agenda without thinking of an outcome that benefits the adjacent community. As a student of architecture I believe in this particular example there is a disconnect between artifact and catalyst.

  2. But at the same time though, Kwon argues that the success of community based art can be measured in the extent that the (self)expression of the community affirms the notion of a coherent collective subject. So taking this view, could the Bloom Town project be called a success? It is, after all, accurately affirming the collective social circumstances of the area.

    This is where the important differences between "community based art" and "art in the public interest" are highlighted; where art in the public interest affects social/political change by acting as the agent. 601 Tully, fortunately, falls under the "art in the public interest" definition as defined by Kwon and so does (hopefully) provide the solution that was lacking in the Bloom Town project while also raising awareness.

  3. Also isn't "is the site what defines the community or the community what defines the site" a what came first the chicken or the egg argument? (ultimately pointless)

  4. I dont believe it's ultimately pointless. It has to do with what defines "community". Is it an overgeneralization of people living in a geographic location or an emerging collective identity that results from an intervention? Is it meant to be a catalyst or assumed to be a social panacea? Maybe, ultimately, it's just calling it something that we as architecture students glance over with demographics.

    Regarding Bloomtown, I agree. The differentiation between community based art and art in the public interest is critical, but I still have to argue that it isn't a gesture or a (self)expression made by a collective. Maybe I'm not thinking of this right way because I don't know how to measure the effectiveness of these types of projects...how long does the public have to enjoy it or become engaged with the process in order for it to be called a success? I think that is one conundrum that arises out of art in the public interest.