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Sunday, March 7, 2021

Wanna see a BIG blue hen? UD creates guide to public art in Newark

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Dragonfly Leathrum's 2000 mural of a cat watching a skateboard can be seen at 223 E Main St, in Newark.
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The University of Delaware has released a virtual map that catalogs all public art on campus as well as the city of Newark at large. 

The examples include a giant blue chicken; a graphically entertaining brick wall created out of examples of historic brickwork; a reclining nude facing the botanical gardens, and a giant aluminum molecule with a fancy Cosmichrome finish.

“I think the art map is an amazing interactive story that lets you discover murals and paintings that commemorate UD and Newark’s history,” said Marcia Scott, a policy scientist at the Biden Institute. “The area has a really impressive display of art, just hidden in plain sight.” 

 

The program loosely adopted a definition for their public art from a Montgomery County, Maryland definition: “Permanent installation of artwork that s located indoors or outdoors and is visually, physically, and freely accessible to the public at least eight hours per day.”

The project began in January of 2020 and took about 9 months to complete

Had the COVID-19 pandemic not slowed them down, Marcia Scott says they could have been done in about 6 months. 

UD’s Biden School team produces interactive map of Newark’s public art inventory
The University of Delaware’s Biden School School has created a guide to public art in Newark.

 

The idea was sparked by Tracy Shickel and the Newark Public art Committee saying they needed a way to catalog the areas public art and didn’t know where to start. 

“What the committee is doing is looking at opportunities to enhance, educate and raise awareness about the arts and humanities,” Shickel said, “Second, we’re trying to add additional installations, whatever they may be.”

Scott brought in Nicole Minni, a geographic information specialist working in the field since 1992 to take over the more technical aspect of the project. 

“Public art has become a go-to place to increase economic development,” Scott said. “We were approached by the Newark Public Art committee about what ways to advance that interest.” 

The project was funded through a number of small grants. 

 

Minni started by creating a survey application that people could use that included a geographical component. 

The survey asked for different types of info, such as the type of art, the name, the year it was made, whether it’s handicap accessible and whether it’s in need of repair, as well as a brief description of the art piece and an image of it. 

The application was sent to a few people. However, because of the pandemic, two undergrad public administration fellows, Allison Michalowski and Jillian Cullen logged most of the works of art. 

Once the art was cataloged, Minni helped the students create the art map. It can be accessed on smart phones, tablets and desktops.

Christian Kanienberg's 2005 rainbow bridge mural
Christian Kanienberg’s 2005 rainbow bridge mural welcomes visitors and residents on one side and says farewell on the other. It’s at East Cleveland Avenue and Capital Trail.

 

A short video that goes into further detail about how the art map works can be found here.

“When looking at the map you might notice some art dead zones around the city,” Scott said, “What I think needs to happen is for the City of Newark to establish a kind of public art plan that places art around the city where there isn’t any.” 

While all the participants expressed interest in expanding the project to other towns or even the entire state, they’d need additional funding to continue.

Among the practical applications of the project, they said, would be ability to shed light on art installations that have fallen into disrepair and also establish where new art installations should go in the future.

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