Photo by William LeGoullon
By Weldon B. Johnson for AZ Central
Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, praised Chandler’s use of art in public places during a visit Monday morning.
Landesman, who visited several communities in Arizona Monday and Tuesday, stopped by Chandler’s Vision Gallery for a brief reception. While in town he met with members of the city’s art community and toured some of Chandler’s downtown public art projects including the artistic shade structure at City Hall and some of the sculptures along Arizona Avenue.
“It’s part of my job to get out around the country and see how art is integrated in communities and what the state of the artistic enterprise is,” Landesman said. “I don’t want a view of everything from 30,000 feet but to get on the ground and see what’s happening. Here in Chandler there is an emphasis on public art and a connection between art and the communities.”
He said pieces such as the artistic benches and tables along Arizona Avenue in the downtown area were an enhancement to life in the community.
“Why do streets have to be pedestrian or ugly?” Landesman said. “It might as well be an aesthetic experience. To take a city hall and have part of that have an aesthetic dimension and be arts oriented is a nice model. I wish every city did that.”
Robert Booker, executive director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, expanded on Landesman’s comments. He said public art was a benefit to the community beyond being aesthetically pleasing.
Booker said the way Chandler incorporates art into public buildings was an example other communities could follow.
“What you start seeing is art included in the building of infrastructure,” Booker said. “This building (Chandler City Hall) includes art in how it’s built, in the outdoor seating areas, the streetscape and the artworks along the street. That all makes a community more livable and makes it a place where you want to be, it makes it a place where you want to bring business and do business.”
Landesman said the use of art pieces by local artists was another positive aspect of what was happening in Chandler. He talked in particular about sculptures by Russell Marohnic that used iconic Arizona materials such as sandstone and copper, on display in the gallery and on pedestals along Arizona Avenue.
“That wouldn’t be anywhere else, it’s particular to this place and I think that’s as it should be,” Landesman said. “It’s great to see all that’s going on here.”
Marohnic was among those who attended the reception. He has several sculptures that are either part of Chandler’s permanent collection or on loan to the city. An exhibit of his work is on display at the Vision Gallery.
“That he was here was very complimentary to all of us,” Marohnic said. “It was an honor to have met him and get his opinion on what we’ve done. We’re excited to be here.”
The value of public art
“Turbulent Shade,” the artistic shade structure on the west face of Chandler City Hall was one of the public art projects that National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman praised during his brief visit to the city on Monday.
He also had a chance to see a recent sculpture installation outside of City Hall, “Family Matters” by local artist Russell Marohnic.
While funding for the arts has been cut in many places, visual arts in Chandler have survived due in part to a city ordinance that devotes 1 percent of funds allocated for certain capital improvement projects to public artworks. That ordinance includes new buildings, refurbished buildings and parks but does not include projects such as street construction or public works.
That means projects such as the City Hall shade structure, the art glass room dividers at Sunset Library and art glass panels at Chandler Center for the Arts have been completed in recent months even though the city has gone through some belt-tightening measures. City Hall was a new building (completed in fall 2010) while the Sunset Library and Center for the Arts have recently undergone renovations.
“I think he (Landesman) was appreciative to see that with so many arts programs being reduced right now that here — while we’re not increasing — art is still being considered important in public development,” Chandler Visual Arts Coordinator Eric Faulhaber said.