Roundtable: Transforming Communities Through Art
Saturday, August 25
Storm King Art Center presents a panel discussion about creative placemaking with National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Rocco Landesman and artists Eve Biddle, Mark di Suvero, and Lily Yeh. The artists will discuss their experiences developing projects that have enlivened and enhanced neighborhoods and communities, while Mr. Landesman will provide the perspective of the NEA and its support for efforts to improve communities through the arts. Storm King President John P. Stern will moderate the discussion.
Rocco Landesman is the tenth chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). In 2009, when he joined the NEA, Mr. Landesman began a national conversation about the concept of creative place-making and the ways in which communities can use the arts to help shape their social, physical, and economic circumstances. Under his leadership, the NEA also operates the Mayors’ Institute on City Design and The Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design, through which mayors and county executives use design and the arts to revitalize communities.
In response to the demand for additional federal leadership and investment in support of this work, in 2011 the NEA introduced “Our Town,” a grant program that invests in partnerships between nonprofit arts organizations and local governments that use art to increase the livability of communities. Since the program’s founding, the NEA has invested $11.58 million in projects in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. These have enabled communities to map cultural assets, plan cultural districts, support rehearsal and studio space, strengthen and redesign civic infrastructure, and present public art and festivals.
Artist Eve Biddle is a founding co-director of the Wassaic Project, an arts community in Wassaic, New York. In collaboration with her partners, Ms. Biddle’s vision has helped to shape the Wassaic Project into a vibrant place that nurtures emerging artists with professional support, as well as with funding and access to facilities. In the five years she has served as co-director, Ms. Biddle has overseen the development of the Wassaic Project’s annual summer festival and its artist-residency and exhibition programs; launched the guest-curator program; developed an education program for local children; and integrated the Wassaic Project into the community and architecture of the town.
Mark di Suvero’s work may be found in public and private collections across the globe and has been exhibited internationally. In addition to his role as a pivotal American sculptor, di Suvero has also been a central figure in a number of the institutions that have shaped the landscape of New York City’s art world. Since 1981 he has maintained a studio in Long Island City and, in 1986, he led the transformation of an abandoned landfill and adjacent dumpsite into the award-winning Socrates Sculpture Park. Combining space for artists with a neighborhood park—with a stunning view across the East River—Socrates is internationally renowned for its programs serving artists and the public, including an extensive arts-education program.
Mr. di Suvero’s work has played an integral role in the history of Storm King, where the “di Suvero fields” represent one of the largest installations of the artist’s sculptures. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the 2010 National Medal of Arts.
Internationally celebrated artist Lily Yeh founded the Village of Arts and Humanities in North Philadelphia in 1968, transforming a blighted area into an oasis of parks, gardens, performance spaces, and playgrounds through ongoing community-building through the arts. In 2002, Ms. Yeh founded the international organization Barefoot Artists, Inc., to serve impoverished communities through participatory, multi-faceted arts projects that foster community empowerment, improve the physical environment, promote economic development, and preserve indigenous art and culture. In addition to the United States, Barefoot Artists has projects in China, Ecuador, Ghana, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Palestine, Republic of Georgia, Rwanda, Syria, and Taiwan.
John P. Stern has been president of Storm King Art Center since 2008, when he succeeded his father, Storm King co-founder H. Peter Stern, in that role. As president he oversees all aspects of the Art Center’s planning, development, programming, and operations, helping to ensure a vital future for the institution. A longtime trustee of Storm King, he is also a trustee of the Ralph E. Ogden Foundation, Inc., and the National School Climate Center. He is a member of the Sculpture Committee of The Fund for Park Avenue and previously served on the boards of the Coro New York Leadership Center and Minetta Brook.