Art in public places often has a two-fold intention. First and foremost, it is used to enrich the quality of life of the residents and visitors who enjoy it. Given the logistics and cost involved in large-scale art, private industry is often involved in underwriting public art, creating goodwill in those who feel it elevates their neighborhood while (and here’s the second intention) passively raising the underwriter’s brand image as a supporter of the arts and as a good corporate citizen.
So, how does a “brand” capitalize on its artistic investment without crossing the line into using it as obvious advertising? By partnering with community organizations and municipal government to vet the proposed artwork, working closely with artists to keep the work firmly in the artistic, and through marketing and PR messaging that always keep an eye on the client’s investment while reminding the public that art is about raising the overall quality of life.
At the intersection where art and commerce meet is a project Alchemy and Regan are working on together. We have a residential project that is an historic building that once housed Southern Bell’s regional headquarters. Our client is turning it into loft apartments, and has named the project after Alexander Graham Bell, the father of the telephone.
We have a 7,000 square-foot wall that faces the eastern waterfront with an unobstructed view for pedestrians and high visibility to surrounding traffic. The building’s owner and developer is a major art patron who has made it a habit to bring public art to his projects, so that was the easy sell. The huge wall is perfect for a large-scale mural.
By inviting the involvement of Art in Public Places, the Palm Beach County Cultural Council, and our Downtown Development Authority, we were able to conduct a Call to Artists and supply them with a creative prompt that incorporated Alexander Graham Bell. The final artwork, which will be painted over the course of two weeks in March, incorporates his image, old Southern Bell logos, and historic telephone instruments, among other things. While there are very strict guidelines for this artwork, which cannot have any marketing or advertising elements that promote the Alexander Lofts, the fact that we developed a name and brand for the project that dovetails with Bell means we have a passive vehicle for building that brand. Alexander Lofts will be closely identified with the artwork without ever crossing the line.
In addition to all of the advertising and marketing that goes into a project of this size and scope, there is a strong element of public relations involved, since art is such a subjective medium. Helping the community recognize that this project is “good business” for the neighborhood is one of Regan’s tasks, and by involving the local media, community groups, students, arts patrons, and others in the process, everyone feels good.
By incorporating the idea of a public artwork into the earliest planning, we are able to maximize the brand, navigate the borderline between branding and art, support the arts, give back to the neighborhood, create a focal point, engage in conversation, and build interest. The fact that all of those things may or may not bring the building tenants is the risk inherent in art itself – and it’s still a really cool idea.
Inventive thinking is part of our culture at Alchemy/Regan, plus we’re in the Palm Beaches of South Florida – anyone thinking about a visit?