In honor of the opening of the Bus Stand on Main Street in North Adams, ¬†Kidspace sat down to chat with the artist, Victoria Palermo. Palermo‚Äôs work will be installed in mid-June 2012… But make sure to check out the festivities and the ribbon cutting with Mayor Alcombright on June 28 at 6 PM.
Kidspace: You have exhibited in museums and galleries (including Kidspace!) in the past, but your Bus Stand is a public work of art designed to be a permanent installation on Main Street in North Adams. Do you approach a project differently depending on the different audiences? If so, how?
VP: In a public work of art, the artist has the chance to catch the viewer by surprise.¬† Go to a museum, you expect to see art.¬† Wait for a bus, expect transportation.¬† In this case I hope to transport bus patrons in an additional way‚ÄĒas if they had entered a three-dimensional painting.¬† Looking out from inside the shelter, familiar streetscapes will appear in blocks of color.
I love the idea that someone might have an aesthetic experience while engaging in a mundane necessity of life‚ÄĒwaiting for a bus.¬† I think that color has a tremendous impact on state of mind.¬†¬† We are a secular society, but people used to spend more time in cathedrals, churches, and got a spiritual uplift from seeing the colored light streaming through stained glass windows.¬† If sitting in the bus shelter gives someone an emotional lift, makes the day a little bit better, I‚Äôll be happy.
Kidspace: Do you have a preference for which kind of project you would rather do?
VP: I think the idea of communicating to a large diverse audience is the most exciting, but also the most scary.¬† I think of it as a reality check.¬† Hopefully people will respond on a fundamental level.¬† The work is about visual perception; appreciation requires eyes, not a knowledge of art theory.¬† I love it when small children, in particular, respond positively to my work.
There are practical considerations to be considered in a project like this; I am very mindful that the shelter must function from a practical point of view.¬† I hope that North Adams folks will see it as a gift that belongs to them; something to be taken care of and preserved.¬† Within a museum or gallery, the artist has certain assurances that the work will be protected.¬† In the case of a public work, all bets are off.
Kidspace: As I understand it, the inspiration for the Bus Stand project started with a residency you did with North Adams public school students in spring of 2010. How did working with these kids influence your decision to start this project, or the evolution of the project design itself?
VP: Kids respond in such a genuine way.¬† Again‚ÄĒterrifying‚ÄĒbecause they are savages and feel no compulsion to respond politely. Yet, they came to the project with open minds with no negative preconceptions.¬† I had already been working with the idea of creating an ‚Äúart‚ÄĚ shelter that could have a practical application.¬†¬† I worked with several groups of junior high students during their last week of school.¬† I was afraid that they would rather be playing outside, but they were great and made an array of structures that could function in a public arena.¬† Their energy and responses were very confirming.
Kidspace: As a professional artist, what do you gain from doing a residency project in the schools?
VP: It‚Äôs good practice to learn to communicate ideas in the most direct¬† (no bull—-) way.¬† Students respond to authenticity.¬† They‚Äôre not worried‚ÄĒ‚Äúis it art?‚ÄĚ, but react on a gut level.¬† There‚Äôs no tougher audience.¬†¬†¬† This is my second residency project with Kidspace; both have been very energizing, confirming experiences.¬† One could say‚ÄĒa blast.
Kidspace: How do you think artist residencies influence students?
VP: Hopefully, the students begin to see the experience of art as a part of life, not just an isolated experience. I think also that students come to realize that artists are not so very different from them, and that important work may be achieved through a sense of play.
Kidspace: What‚Äôs next on the horizon for you, after the Bus Stand?
VP: Perhaps more public works in a similar vein?¬† I have ideas and models.
More about Victoria Palermo:
Victoria Palermo, a sculptor residing in Queensbury, New York, holds a Bacehlor of Science degree in Art from Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont. She is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Art at Skidmore College and previously was a scenic painter and art department director for Adirondack Scenic, Inc., in Glens Falls, New York. In addition to Kidspace at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, her work has been in solo and group shows in such galleries and museums as: Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts; The Arts Center in Troy, New York; The Tang Museum at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York; Pierogi 2000, Brooklyn, New York; ART/OMI Sculpture Park, Ghent, New York; and Galerie Du Tableau, Marseilles, France. She is represented by the John Davis Gallery, Hudson, New York.¬†