Monumental queries answered

ARCHITECTURE

MHS program tells of decisions behind public sculpture

August 30, 2004|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN ARCHITECTURE CRITIC

How do monumental works of art get commissioned for public spaces? Who selects the artists and takes care of the works after they're installed? And what if we don't like them once they're up?

Those are a few of the subjects that will be addressed this fall by an exhibit and related panel discussion organized by the Maryland Historical Society.

The Who, What and Why of Public Sculpture is the title of a program that will start at 7 p.m. Oct. 7 at the historical society museum, 201 W. Monument St.

During the presentation, which is free and open to the public, leading members of Baltimore's art community will discuss the process by which public sculpture is commissioned, created and preserved on the local level.

Speakers also will discuss the public response to Jonathan Borofsky's Male/Female, the 51-foot-tall aluminum sculpture installed in front of Baltimore's Pennsylvania Station in June.

The program is being offered in conjunction with a temporary exhibit, Preserving Memory: America's Monumental Legacy, on view Saturday through Oct. 24 in the museum's McCardell Textile Gallery.

Preserving Memory is a touring exhibit that tells the stories behind nearly 200 works of outdoor sculpture throughout America, including the 1911 Francis Scott Key Monument on Eutaw Place.

It was developed by Save Outdoor Sculpture!, a campaign devoted to caring for the nation's public works of art, with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

"While geographically accessible to a broad population, monumental sculptures in the United States tend to be intellectually inaccessible, and their original meanings have often been lost or reshaped," said Susan Nichols, director of Save Outdoor Sculpture! "Preserving Memory will encourage visitors to explore the stories behind their own community's public sculpture."

The exhibit and panel discussion come at a time when Baltimore has just gained or soon will gain several major works of public art, from the Inner Harbor to Hopkins Plaza to the Mount Royal cultural district. Besides Borofsky, artists include Alice Aycock, Rodney Carroll, William Neibauer, Stan Edmister and David Hess.

Panelists at the Oct. 7 program will include Maren Hassigner, director of the Rinehart School of Sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art; Kathleen Kotarba, executive director of Baltimore's Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation; Jennifer Mange, public art coordinator for the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts; and Peter Doo, a local architect and vice president of the Municipal Art Society of Baltimore City, which commissioned the Borofsky sculpture.

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