Lots of folks know the latest gadgets will be on display at CES, even if they don’t know the letters stand for Consumer Electronics Show. Some conferences are just so big and so well known that a handful of letters is all most of us need to identify them.
The FAPAP Conference is not one of them.
FAPAP stands for the Florida Association of Public Art Professionals. The group has 130 members, most of whom are artists or arts administrators. Malinda Horton, association manager, admits it’s a small organization, but she says it’s an important one. “It really helps show our state and our different communities – no matter what size they are – how art and culture can impact your life.”
Every year, the members of FAPAP gather in a different Florida location to share ideas and find inspiration. This year, they’ll be heading to Fort Lauderdale and checking in at the Riverside Hotel on Las Olas Boulevard, which will be buzzing with talk of art installations as well as public art ordinances and best practices from May 8 through 10.
Holding the conference in Broward was a logical choice. The Broward Cultural Division has a dynamic Public Art & Design Program. Since it was created in 1976, the program has built up a collection of more than 260 public artworks located throughout the County.
“We’re very supportive of public art here; we understand the positive impacts of it. We want to show off what we’re doing!”
“They do some really interesting projects,” says Horton, who is based in Tallahassee. “I’m excited to come and see what those look like and what they’ve [Broward County] accomplished.”
A tour of the local public art scene is always a highlight of the FAPAP Conference, but if you think the attendees will be looking at a bunch of big bronze statues commemorating people most of us don’t remember, think again. The County’s public art collection includes murals, interactive installations, integrated architectural work, digital media, paintings, tapestries and more.
“What are the transportation issues? What are the climate issues? What do the buildings look like? All of that can come into play in public art.”
Public art is about more than creating something beautiful to adorn the community. Artists are commissioned, usually by a city or county agency, to create a work for a specific site. They might find inspiration in the local landscape, the culture of the community or the story of its people.
Roldan says that many of the works in Broward County’s collection are inspired by the natural environment of South Florida. “Wavelength” by Emily White, an award-winning installation that floats above travelers passing through Terminal 1 at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, was inspired by the way light transforms into color when it refracts through water – but not just any water. “The suspended artwork is based on a ray of light cutting through the water in Broward County,” Roldan says. “It reflects the colors of the local area; it’s inspired by local themes. It gives you a sense of place.”
Public art can be used to address social and environmental issues of local importance or celebrate community identity. As demonstrated by “Cloudscape” by Volkan Alkanoglu, a recent addition to the public art collection Roldan manages at the airport, it can also enhance public infrastructure.
Assembled like a large three-dimensional puzzle with billowy and dynamic shapes, “Cloudscape” is composed of interconnected abstract forms that appear to change and move – just like the clouds in the sky over Broward County. In addition to reminding travelers of South Florida’s enviable weather, the piece provides a safe area for children to play – and a welcome respite for traveling parents.
“This one was very involved,” Roldan says. “We even had to get certification from the National Recreation and Park Association, which involved a site visit from an out-of-state representative who came down here to measure and inspect the sculptural structures, the flooring material and the site in.”
Most public art professionals don’t find themselves worrying about playground standards, but they do have more to worry about than aesthetics. In the realm of public art, issues like ADA accessibility, insurance, maintenance and risk management can arise. Insight on how to deal with them can often be found at the FAPAP Conference.
According to Horton, the informal networking may be as valuable as conference sessions dealing with current trends in the industry. “Sitting down in the afternoon when the sessions are done,” she says “I think it really helps. I’ve seen programs grow and I’m not sure if they would have ever gotten to the point that they are without a group like this.”
Roldan hopes the attendees at this year’s conference will take home information they can use – whether they gained it from a conference session on community engagement or from a conversation with a colleague over coffee. She also hopes they will take home ideas. “I hope everyone who comes to the conference will learn new things about what’s happening in the public art world and will be inspired.”
The Conference is available to members, students, institutions, artists and anyone with an interest in learning about public art and costs $75 for a single day or $175 for the full conference; visit FloridaPublicArt.org for more information or to register.