About Public Address
Public Address originated in 1997 as a support and advocacy group for public artists practicing in the San Diego/Tijuana region. We quickly became allies instead of competitors for public commissions, as we worked to strengthen our individual skills and to promote best practices benefitting both artists and communities. Currently members live in Central and Southern California and create public works in a wide range of media, forms, scale and contexts, from weekly poetry readings at city council meetings, collaborative murals, performative lectures and interactive web sites to large-scale permanent installations at trolley, bus and metro stops, airports, municipal buildings, libraries, public housing, and parks as well as opportunities and institutions for artistic exchange and cross-cultural dialogue. As the name Public Address suggests, we are trained not only in methods of artistic expression, but as listeners, writers, researchers and synthesizers to give form to community needs and aspirations. We are innovators and master problem solvers both in building techniques and designs and strategies for community engagement. We keep a steadfast eye on how our projects may be useful for generations to come.
We believe that public art is vital to community well-being. Public art engages all of the senses, both heart and mind, providing aesthetic pleasure and inspiration, while also often raising questions and encouraging critical thinking. As public artists we are flexible interventionists. We excavate hidden stories, draw from natural and cultural history, and integrate local lore, fantasy and philosophy to create potent metaphors, narratives and visual imagery. Our projects may contribute to creative place-making, spark imagination, strengthen community cohesion or address important issues of our times. Public art is exciting, transformative and honors our collective humanity.
Founding Public Address member Aida Mancillas, who unfortunately passed away in 2009, wrote the following about the citizen artist. Our name, Public Address, encapsulates this concept of the artist as activist citizen, engaging and enlivening community.
Perhaps community artists are, by definition, artists whose questions, proddings, concepts, schematics, master plans and working processes are the real artworks. The ability to integrate seemingly disparate points of view, to re-present the community to itself, to imagine solutions outside the usual, to forge alliances or act as bridges—these qualities of the community artist make possible a living, malleable artwork that will not fit easily into the gallery….I cannot ignore the neighborhood around me. I continue to lend my skills to my neighbors, to advocate and educate. In return, I receive the fellowship and teachings of individuals of varying interests and backgrounds, united in their efforts to resuscitate a community they love. I suspect the work that binds us together will make of us more than good neighbors—good citizens as well….
Primary to any redefinitions of citizenship is the transformation of the individual from passive viewer to active agent...Through “lifelike art performances” in private and civic venues we continue to embrace the concept of a citizenship that is actively performed rather than ambiguously and capriciously granted. The resultant “art works” take the form of meetings, position briefs, budget analyses, community dialogues, workshops, and neighborhood festivals….
The citizen artist has many arenas and many audiences (constituencies) and can, indeed must, navigate multiple realities and multiple codes….The challenge is to navigate through a sea of illusions, absurdities, inverted discourses mass marketing, stereotypes, and other superficialities to touch a secure landfall where real dialogue and empowerment is possible.
From: “The Citizen Artist,” reprinted in The Citizen Artist: Twenty Years of Art in the Public Arena: An Anthology from High Performance Magazine 1978-1998, edited by Linda Frye Burnham and Steve Durland. 2002 and “Making Art, Making Citizens: Las Comadres and Postnational Aesthetics,” by Aida Mancillas, Ruth Wallen and Margie Waller in With Other Eyes: Looking at Race and Gender in Visual Culture, Lisa Bloom ed. 1999.