Austin is a Finalist for $1 million Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Grant

SUPERFLEX, Lost Money, 2009. 2,000 coins of local currency (USD), welded with bolts. Edition 3 of 3, 1 AP. Dimensions variable. Collection of The Contemporary Austin. Purchased with funds provided by the Edward and Betty Marcus Foundation, 2016.4. Installation view, The Contemporary Austin – Laguna Gloria, Austin, Texas, 2016. Artwork © SUPERFLEX. Image courtesy The Contemporary Austin. Photograph by Brian Fitzsimmons.

Austin is one of 14 cities in the running to receive as much as $1 million from the Bloomberg Philanthropies as part of the foundations 2018 Public Art Challenge.

More than 200 cities across the country applied to the program that aims to fund public art that addresses civic issues.

Austin’s proposal is a joint project put forward by the Contemporary Austin in conjunction with the city of Austin. Called “Right to the City,” the proposal is for a series of installations to be placed in public parks in underserved communities. Artist collective Superflex would lead the collaborative project that would involve other artists to create work that reflects the Austin’s cultural heritage and identities.

Among the cities on list of finalists are El Paso, Seattle, St. Louis, Honolulu, Baltimore, Anchorage, and Camden, New Jersey.

“This year’s proposals focus on critical issues facing our country in exciting and creative ways,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and Mayor of New York City 2002-2013. “The Public Art Challenge helps to highlight the role that public art plays in provoking conversation, supporting collaboration, and building strong communities, and we’re looking forward to announcing the winners.”

Bloomberg Philanthropies will select at least three winners from among the finalists in the fall.

Louis Grachos, the Contemporary’s executive director and CEO said in a statement:  “We were honored to work with Mayor Adler’s team to shape the proposal for the Bloomberg Public Art Challenge, and we were thrilled to learn that Austin has been selected as a finalist. This project has the potential to address the pressing issue of cultural equity in our city by empowering underserved communities to create public works of art in multiple neighborhoods across Austin. In addition to the opportunity to partner with many local artists and organizations for this project, we would have the opportunity to collaborate with the Danish artist collective SUPERFLEX (Jakob Fenger, Rasmus Nielsen and Bjørnstjerne Christiansen), who has a long history of creatively engaging communities through collaborative works of art across the globe. Quite simply, this award from Bloomberg would bring public art to Austin on a scale we’ve never seen before.”

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Meghan Wells, manager of the city’s Cultural Arts Division said: “The City of Austin’s Cultural Arts Division is thrilled to partner on this project to open the door to more community co-created artwork that fosters citizen engagement, neighborhood inclusion, cultural equity, and highlights Austin’s diversity as a strength.  We are honored and excited to be named a finalist.”

In 2016, the Contemporary acquired the Superflex installation “Lost Money.” The Danish art trio scattered 2,000 U.S. coins across the terrace of Laguna Gloria’s elegant 1916 Italianate villa. The coins — quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies — were then affixed to the pavement where they fell. Superflex conceived of their “Lost Money” series during the financial crisis of 2008 and iterations have been installed around the world. Removed from circulation and rendered worthless, the forever-out-of-reach currency serves as a commentary on what the artists view as rampant commodity fetishism.

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