How to get started in public Art, a conversation with Jon Pounds, Director of Chicago Public Art Group

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Jon-Pounds-head-shotPublic art projects offer both great opportunities and specific challenges for artists. While the budgets and opportunities for exposure of public art are extremely attractive, such large scale projects also require very specialized skills beyond purely artistic merit.

In this conversation, Jon Pounds, Executive Director of the Chicago Public Art Group, discusses the origins of contemporary public art, the principles of managing large scale and collaborative projects, current practices and design considerations, the value of balancing humility and ego when working with collaborators and communities, and how to get started in public art.

Pounds early public work involved creating temporary street installations with his partner Olivia Gude. They joined CPAG in 1983 and began creating collaborative public artworks through CPAG in 1984. Through building playground structures, sculptures and painting murals Pounds gained an appreciation for the need to carefully organize and manage the resources for large-scale projects. In 1989 he became the part-time Director of CPAG, and committed himself to integrating personal and professional growth while developing the ability of the organization and its artists to respond more fully to community needs. CPAG has experienced significant growth under his leadership.

Pounds has presented workshops on community, public art processes in San Francisco, New Orleans, Boston, and Cleveland. He has served as consultant to mural organizations in Philadelphia, New York City, Ottawa, Illinois, and Covington, Kentucky. Pounds has addressed Grants Makers in the Arts, Americans for the Arts Public Art Network, the Community Built Association, and numerous gatherings of funders, artists, and organizers. In Chicago, he has led public art tours for PAN, the Rockefeller Foundation, Jungian psychologists, American Society of Landscape Architects, and many other diverse groups including the Museum of Contemporary Art and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Pounds was the project sculptor and general manager for the 1994-1998 $330,000 Water Marks mosaic installation at Navy Pier in Chicago, the largest community art project in the nation to that time. In 2000, Pounds was the lead consultant to the Chicago Transit Authority as it prepared to initiate its first official public art program. Recently, he has served on design teams for the Chicago Park District.

In 2001, Jon Pounds received a Community Service Fellowship awarded by the Chicago Community Trust. During this 15-month long fellowship he is studied the intersection of urban planning, community organizing, and public art. He took course work in large-scale landscape design and community organizing at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and traveled extensively in Europe and North America while researching new directions for collaborative community-based public art and space design.

Learn More about Chicago Public Art Group

  1. Chicago Public Art Group Website:
  2. Read Chicago Public Art Group's Community Public Art Guide
  3. Chicago Public Art Group Featured Projects

Further Resources:

  1. Wikipedia overview of public art: Public Art

Show Highlights: Excerpts From the Conversation

Once the transcription is completed I'll include some of the best portions here.

« Market agoraphobia: how to stand out when everyone is different, a conversation with Lucy Knisley | Main | How to get your art into galleries, a conversation with Clint Watson »

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Statement + Bio | Curriculum Vitae | Bibliography

I'm best known as an artist and designer. Relaxing makes me tense, so I tend to put in a lot of hours on diverse projects.

On the way to a successful art career I've been a poet and writer, a tech geek, a print and web designer, illustrator, industrial designer, musician, teacher, actor, set designer and even a paid guru once.

It's all the same thing in the end— I wake up most days thinking about how I want to change, fix or improve some aspect of the world. And after a couple cups of coffee I get started on it.

My specialty is impossibility remediation: if it can't be done, I'm on it.

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