"End of the Line"
Introduction and Context
Late twentieth-century decentralization of power and communications in the art world is redefining its structure, challenging a cultural system once dominated by exclusive blue chip galleries. Art is leaving the salon for more publicly accessible electronic networks, community operated cable TV, billboards, neighborhood gardens and subway systems. More and more, artists are leaving their century old position at the edge of the avant-garde for an open-eyed, responsible, collaborative role within their culture. Funding is shifting towards art projects with social service goals.
Several issues emerge from these trends. One concern is how much an artist today is expected to be a social worker. Another is if an art project has specific start and end dates, what happens to the relationship between artist and community when the artist leaves? Added to these challenges is how much time the most dedicated artist can feasibly volunteer to realize the full potential of a community-based artwork. All of us, including our assistant Debra Tomson, maintained full-time paid jobs in addition to the hundreds of hours we volunteered over one year to complete "End of the Line."
In the course of our summer library workshops, we found a strong desire among young people and senior citizens for a creative outlet and individual recognition. Yet, we only had time and funding to go to six of thirteen interested neighborhood libraries for workshops.
We are hosting a press conference at a downtown bus stop and an open-house at the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University to reunite community participants with the project after an intensive period of production. At these events we will acknowledge everyone's contribution and explain how their images fit into the overall structure of the project. We will also introduce the web site.
Questions linger - can these one-time projects, successful as they may be, truly replace the huge cutbacks that we are witnessing in the arts across the United States? What implications do temporary art projects or lack of art in public education have on the next generation who might grow up without art? As a democratic society, we are collectively making decisions that will effect our creative consciousness far into the next century.
"End of the Line" is a community-based artistic collaboration examining historic and contemporary issues in Pittsburgh's neighborhoods resulting in the creation of five computer collages displayed on twenty PAT buses for the duration of one month. We designed "End of the Line" as a project that crosses boundaries between Pittsburgh neighborhoods, both in the unifying themes of the visual designs and in the designs' means of display on public buses and the World Wide Web. This project presents both our passion for the computer as an artistic tool and our commitment to sharing our art and working process with a broad audience. Last summer, we created partnerships with six neighborhoods through workshops held at Carnegie branch libraries. We met many enthusiastic librarians who generously contributed their time to making the neighborhood collage/oral history workshops possible. They reinforced our belief in the public library system as one of the few truly democratic institutions left in many areas of the United States.
It was inspiring and educational to meet so many people who have lived in our region for generations and to hear their stories. We are grateful for their willingness to share their ideas and photographs for a public art project. Condensing so much material into four collages without lowering our design standards was very challenging. Our solution was to create a fifth design, a poster that includes images of the libraries and workshops, paying visual homage to the location and process of generating the four computer collages for the twenty exterior bus billboards. In the digital space of the web site, we found the flexibility to include an archive of images and text not possible within the physical confines of the printed billboard collages.
We appreciate everyone's support for public art which recognizes individual civic achievement, community issues and local history presented in an alternative visual format. A large community-based project depends on many people to lend their time and creative input. Debra Tomson, our artist assistant, diligently attended workshops and helped produce our web site. Barry Chad, Assistant Director of the Pennsylvania Department at the Carnegie Library provided invaluable research. At Carnegie Mellon University, Marge Myers, Assistant Director at the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, lent guidance and experiential wisdom to the project while Diana Bajzek and John Scott Thorburn at TELab made computer access and production possible. Of the many neighborhood groups, the Lawrenceville Historical Society and YouthBuild, Pittsburgh, Inc. of Homewood were especially helpful in providing materials. We would especially like to acknowledge the six librarians: Joyce Broadus (Homewood), Marlene Demarest (Westend), Cheryl Engel (Hazelwood), Connie Galbraith and Marshall Webster (Allegheny Regional), Mildred Glenn (Lawrenceville), and Marian Streiff (Beechview) whose partnership made our neighborhood research possible.
Lisa B. Link and Carolyn P. Speranza
"End of the Line" is funded through the New Forms Regional Grant Program administered by the Painted Bride, funded by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Interdisciplinary Arts Program, the National Endowment for the Arts/Inter-Arts Program, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc.