MY ART STORY by

Nora Sutherland

Philadelphia
Pennsylvania

Thank you to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for supporting the advancement of the arts in America for the past 50 years. Early funding from the NEA for the Association for Public Art (aPA, formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association) paved the way for opportunities that artists now have locally and nationally. Founded in 1872 as the first private non-profit in the nation dedicated to integrating art and urban design, aPA has a long and productive history of commissioning, preserving, promoting, and interpreting public art in Philadelphia.

In 1982, an aPA commissioning program funded by NEA, "Form and Function,” created prototypes for how artists could create functional works that met their artistic vision. The aPA received tremendously creative proposals from artists including Jody Pinto, Martin Puryear, Rafael Ferrer, Sol Lewitt, Isamu Noguchi, and Siah Armajani. Jody Pinto's “Fingerspan" located in Fairmount Park and Siah Armajani's "Louis Kahn Lecture Room" at the Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial were among the significant public artworks realized.

Almost two decades later, another aPA commissioning program funded by NEA, "New•Land•Marks: public art, community, and the meaning of place," reversed the concept of "Form and Function" and asked communities to come together with artists to plan new works of public art for urban neighborhoods. One of the many public artworks created as a result of "New•Land•Marks" was "The Labor Monument: Philadelphia’s Tribute to the American Worker" (2010) by John Kindness which brought together the artist with the Elmwood Park community and City of Philadelphia to commemorate the contributions of organized labor nationwide and Philadelphia’s working class history.

Both commissioning programs funded in part by the NEA have become the underpinning of aPA’s work, and we continue to seek the most productive and imaginative affinities among artists, site, and the public.