As I’ve mentioned in previous posts I’m strongly in support of art being accessible and affordable for all (and as accessible and affordable as other forms of art are in American life.) I have also stated, on more than one occasion, that I prefer a broad definition of art and feel that the idea of art being dead is perpetuated by a small subset of older, conservative, euro-centric males who want to keep Art with a capital ‘A’ private and exclusive.
I recently came across an old article discussing a future event that was going to occur in the U.K. in 2013 called Art Everywhere. The article was a good read. The author mentions the Vogels, a couple of civil servants in NYC who over the course of their lives managed to amass an extremely important collection of artwork, to bolster support for the democratization of fine art as well as highlight the event he was promoting. Art Everywhere aimed to free fine art from the confines of stuffy galleries and bring it into the public sphere via billboards throughout the U.K. By displacing the typical consumer fodder that inundates daily life the promoters were attempting to infuse a little beauty into the commutes of millions but also to expose a wide range of people to things they may not have seen before. By all account it a success. The event ran again in the U.K. and expanded into the U.S. the following year but then it seems to have died. The event was not repeated in 2015 or 2016.
In 2014, the one year Art Everywhere operated in the U.S., Oklahoma City got one billboard, out by the airport, displaying Thomas Eakins’ The Biglin Brothers Racing. The piece, created in the early 1870’s, currently lives in the collection of the National Gallery of Art and depicts the two brothers in their scull during a race that occurred on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. I suppose I could bemoan the placement of our 1 billboard or that such a traditional piece of work was selected but all that is really beside the point. As could be expected larger cities got more artwork (there were 58 pieces selected for the event) and more billboard spots. San Francisco, for example, appears to have had a billboard about every two blocks with work by artists such as David Hockney, Gilbert Stuart, Andy Warhol, and Mary Cassatt.
I’m mentioning this because I can’t see why some of the local art organizations couldn’t revive the concept of Art Everywhere on a small scale here in OKC. As I see it there are a couple of ways to go if operating locally. Black or Women’s History Months are always viable options of course with a few well placed billboards showing the work of Kara Walker, Jacob Lawrence, and Kerry James Marshall or Lee Krasner, Artemisia Gentileschi, and Alice Neel. Or choose artists from Oklahoma and put up the artwork during whichever month Lamar will gives the lowest rate for or pick a month at random or have it coincide with the Arts Festival. The important part is getting artwork up and out where people can see it.