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.