The Office for Public Art (OPA) facilitates artist residencies in the public realm in partnership with organizations and communities in the Pittsburgh region. OPA’s residency program is grounded in civic practice, where artists and community members co-create projects intended to serve the community’s self-defined needs.
The structure of our residency program fosters collaboration between artists, hosts, and communities without preconceived notions of a project outcome. Over the years, our artist residencies in the public realm have taken various forms in response to community needs and capacity of the host organizations. OPA’s residencies typically consist of five primary components: Observation and Learning; Community Engagement; Testing; Creative Project Proposal; and Implementation.
During Observation and Learning, artists familiarize themselves with their respective organizational hosts and the community by attending community events and staff meetings, observing classes, and finding other ways to learn about their community partners.
At the end of Observation and Learning, artists and host organizations prepare a Community Engagement plan to be implemented. The plan typically includes different activities related to the artist’s practice in order to introduce the community to the artist and build relationships. The Community Engagement plan provides the artist and the community more opportunities to learn more about one another and build trust through collaborative work.
As part of Community Engagement, the artist, organizational host, and community identify project ideas that they would like to try. There may be three or more project ideas that are advanced to Testing. During Testing, the team tries different ideas and prototypes projects. This step is important for identifying what works and doesn’t work. At the end of Testing, the artist, organizational host, and community collaboratively develop a proposal for a final Creative Project, which incorporates the lessons learned through Testing.
The Creative Project is completed in the Implementation phase of the residency. The form that the Creative Project takes is a direct result of the collaboration between the artist, organizational host, and community. Over the years, Creative Projects developed and implemented through artist residencies in the public realm have taken many forms, ranging from fixed, temporary public art; to excursion programs; to theatrical performances. Each Creative Project reflects the decisions made, and needs of, the respective communities with whom the artists have worked.
Top to bottom, left to right:
(1) Artist Ricardo Robinson, photo courtesy artist; (2) Screen printing workshop by artist Mary Tremonte, photo courtesy artist; (3) Studio visit with artist Tereneh Idia and Lindsey Scherloum, photo by OPA; (4) Workshop with artist Ricardo Robinson, photo courtesy artist; (5) Sibyls Shrine logo, image courtesy Alisha B. Wormsley.