in the Public Realm
Want to receive the CultureNOW newsletter in your e-mail inbox? Click here to sign up for our mailing list!

Previous Newsletters Vol. 3 Issue 6 - June, 2013

We love to take road trips. To us it’s hopelessly romantic to jettison the quotidian dullness of our humdrum everday lives for a week or so while we perfect our driving skills as we leisurely meander across the country. On a road trip things happen at their own pace. Sightseeing is unstructured and unscripted. We can be tourists and archeologists, perusing the world class and the ideosyncratic, investigating whatever strikes our fancy along the way. This summer we are taking a real and virtual road trip, commuting between our ‘summer homes’ at the The Boston Society of Architects, the AIA Los Angeles and our real ‘home’ in New York navigating the digital highway via Skype. It’s exciting and scary to have the opportunity to explore three cities on their own terms with 12 students at the same time. We don’t yet know exactly what we’ll find, nor how we’ll make sense of it all.

Three years ago we made a 5 minute presentation about our then brand new app at the Public Art Network in Baltimore. We met Porter Arneill who runs the Kansas City Percent for Art Collection and with him we crossed the Hudson and began our odyssey into virtually sharing some of the best public art collections. We wanted to celebrate Kansas City for opening up an incredible door for us. Much of the west is a desert and one of the overriding planning issues is about the conservation and stewardship of water. Our featured Artist, Buster Simpson and Architect Michael Lehrer have projects that have dealt with it; we thought they would be provocative choices to begin the dialogue.

We had the opportunity to collaborate briefly with Steve Jobs at a moment in his life when he had just completed Toy Story and had not moved back to Apple. He had just seen a flat screen tv for the first time and was very excited about it and its possibilities. He talked a lot about futures he couldn’t have imagined and especially about how the journey itself is the reward.

Obviously it resonated with us.

Abby Suckle, President

We thought it would be fun to showcase a few of the Percent for Art Collection's more unique pieces that highlight some of the challenges of city living.

Many of the residents in Kansas City live in the suburbs with the consequence that the city relies heavily on the automobile. Every few blocks, garages which are often large 6-story boxes punctuate significant portions of the urban landscape. Several recent art commissions are about taking a fresh approach to remimagining them. Egawa and Zbryk’s Barnacles, an installation erupting on the side of a garage is reminiscent of nature. Another parking lot piece, Gordon Hether’s Red Eye references moving taillights as the one visual constant, especially at night.

Praire Logic, Janet Zweig’s perforated boxcar is parked on the ground floor amidst a cluster of tall buildings, recalling the railroad culture of the midwest. A portable stage, it also opens to become a theater.

And, one of our favorite commentaries on urban living is Terry Allen’s ‘shoe in mouth’ Modern Communications which is about believing that artwork should raise questions about life. The piece is, unfortunately, between 'sitings' at the moment and can only be visited 'virtually' until it is reinstalled.

Barnacles (2011) Egawa and Zbryk, Kansas City, MO
Photo courtesy of the Municipal Art Commission

Modern Communication (1997) Terry Allen, Kansas City, MO
Photo courtesy of the Municipal Art Commission

Red Eye (2009) Gordon Hether, Kansas City, MO
Photo courtesy of the Municipal Art Commission

Prairie Logic (2009) Janet Zweig, Kansas City, MO
Photo Courtesy of the Municipal Art Commission

photo © Fred Gonzales
Ballroom Luminoso
San Antonio, Tx (2013)
Joe O'Connell,
Blessing Hancock
Public Art San Antonio

Rendering courtesy of the Architect
Reiser + Umemoto
(2010) Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Photo courtesy of the Landscape Architect
Garden of Australian Dreams
Landscape Architect:
Richard Weller
(2001) Canberra, Australia

Cocktails & Conversations

Friday, June 28th
6:30 pm

The Pairing:
Richard Weller,
William Menking,
The Architects Newspaper

In order to foster dialogue about the design of the built environment, cultureNOW teamed up with the AIA NY Chapter’s Architectural Dialogue Committee to start a new Friday night lecture series.

Cocktails & Conversations pairs an architect and a critic, journalist, or curator. Of course, it wouldn’t be Friday night without a suitable beverage. Our Bartender, Toby Ceccini creates a custom cocktail in the spirit of the architects work. Join us at the Center for Architecture for the next in the series:

Photo courtesy of the Artist
17th Annual Walking Tour of Revolutionary New York Tour Guide: James Kaplan
Fraunces Tavern Museum

Time: 3am - 7am
Date: July 4th

Join Tour Guide James Kaplan on his always sold out walking tour of Revolutionary War Sites. This year, for the first time, the tour will end with a ceremony at Trinity Cemetary in honor of General Horatio Gates who is buried there.



This Friday Buster Simpson has a retrospective opening in Seattle at the Frye Art Museum. For more than four decades, he has been the ecological and social conscience for neighborhoods and cities in constant states of transition and renewal. His site-specific, agitprop, and process-driven art has surveyed the problems, scrutinized the context, and presented new frames of reference to provide local solutions for global issues.

To provoke conversation about water and how is it conserved we highlighted two sculptures, one in the courtyard of two office buildings in Seattle, the other in a Whole Foods in Pasadena. Water Table / Water Glass are 2 elements, which create utilitarian fountains; the glass becomes a vessel, a cistern, and a detention tank; the table expresses the philosophical approach for the plaza’s landscape irrigation water table system as well as a usable table when dry. Both sculptures join to nurture the wetlands landscape. The rainwater enters large baroque scuppers at the roofline and is directed through watertight stainless steel downspouts on the exterior of the two buildings.

Whole Flow, located at the Whole Foods Store in Pasadena is a sustainable fountain of utilitarian function with sculptural proportions. It receives gray water generated within the store, aerates this reclaimed water through a series of cascading flow bowls, and then distributes the water to a landscape. In addition to its aesthetic quality, the fountain addresses the concern of transporting Pasadena’s domestic water supply from a finite Colorado River Watershed and implies a shared responsibility for the stewardship of water.

Incidence (2002) Tacoma, WA
Museum of Glass. Photo courtesy of the Artist

Water Table/Water Glass (2001) Seattle, WA
Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs. Photo from the Artist

Portal (2001) Pullman, WA
Washington State University. Photo courtesy of the Artist

Whole Flow (2009) City of Pasadena Public Art Program
Pasadena, CA. Photo courtesy of the Artist


Michael Lehrer is a quintessential LA Architect. Born and bred a few miles from his office in Silverlake, his work has several overriding themes. First is the intersection and overlap of art and architecture. In addition to housing the architectural firm, the space hosts local artists awarded the Cotsen Fellowship by the Barnesdale Foundation during their residencies.

Another theme is community; the James M. Wood Community Center, for instance, is the first area facility designed specifically to meet the social, cultural and recreational needs of Skid Row senior citizens and persons in recovery. The goal was to create a welcoming building which respects and extends an invitation to the homeless and low-income population, so often overlooked and under-served by traditionally drab civic institutions.

A third theme is sustainability. In 1995, the Metropolitan Water Commission began creating two 300’ high dams in Hemet, California to provide water for San Diego and Los Angeles. The creation of Diamond Valley Lake become the largest earthwork project in American History. At the base of the East Dam sit the Water and Life Museums which tell the story of the Pleistocene era mammoth remains found while excavating for the dams and about water in Southern California.

Potrero Heights Park Community Center, LA, CA (2012)
Photo courtesy of the Architect

James M Wood Community Center Los Angeles, CA (2002)
Photo courtesy of the Architect

Water + Life Museum and Campus, Hemet, CA (2009)
w/ Gangi Architects Photo Courtesy of the Architect

Lehrer Architects LA Studio I Los Angeles, CA
Photo courtesy of the Architect


The Bay Lights is the world’s largest LED light sculpture, 1.8 miles wide and 500 feet high. Inspired by the Bay Bridge’s 75th Anniversary, its 25,000 white LED lights are individually programmed to create a never-repeating, dazzling display across the Bay Bridge West Span through March 2015.

Pi In The Sky is the world’s largest ephemeral installation of pi that appeared in the sky above the San Francisco Bay Area on September 12, 2012.

The Bay Lights (2012) San Francisco, CA
Leo Villareal, Ben Davis, Photo courtesy of the Artist

Pi in the Sky, (2012) San Francisco, CA
Ben Davis, Photo courtesy of the Artist
cultureNOW is a 501c3