Funding to be used for "Playable Austin" Initiative
AUSTIN, TX—On June 14, the National Endowment for the Arts announced its second major funding program for fiscal year 2017, totaling over $82 million in support of local arts projects across the country. The City of Austin Cultural Arts Division, part of the Economic Development Department, was among the 1,029 award recipients, receiving a $50,000 Art Works grant. The funds will be used to support the City’s Playable Austin initiative, a series of public workshops, presentations, and a public art installation that will activate local neighborhoods and engage the community through creative interaction and play.
“The value of the National Endowment for the Arts to Austin and to the country at large cannot be overstated,” said Meghan Wells, Manager of the Cultural Arts Division. “We are grateful to the NEA for the opportunity to bring Playable Austin to the community and look forward to seeing the creative interactions that this project will foster in neighborhoods all over the city.”
As a global creative leader and UNESCO Media Arts City, Austin has a long tradition of engaging the community in creative and unexpected ways. In 2015, the City commissioned Hello Lamp Post, a ten-week project in which thousands of Austinites “conversed” with lamp posts, bus stops, and other objects throughout the City via text messages. Playable Austin will continue that trajectory by transforming public spaces throughout the City through artistic interventions that invite residents to rediscover their environment and connect with the people around them through technology that encourages play with street light shadows. Based on the Playable Cities framework developed by Watershed (Bristol, UK), Playable Austin will transcend cultural, economic, and geographic lines by re-using City infrastructure to create connections – person to person and person to city.
At the heart of the Playable Austin project is Shadowing, a 6-week temporary art installation that will launch in October 2017. Created by Jonathan Chomko and Matthew Rosier, Shadowing gives memory to city lights, enabling them to record and play back the shadows of those who pass underneath them. As the sun sets, and street lights come on, traces of those who have passed will be captured and projected on the pavement below. As one walks under the lights, the shadow of a previous visitor will walk, hop, or dance beside them, and then their own movements will be captured and displayed to the next passerby. Shadowing street lights will be positioned around the City, with one in each of the six Soul-y Austin districts. These include North Lamar, South Congress, East Cesar Chavez, Red River, Manor Road, and East 12th Street.
Panel Discussion and Workshop
Concurrent with the Shadowing installation, the Cultural Arts Division and Austin Design Week will co-present a free panel discussion, Playable City in Concept & Practice. Hosted as an official program of Austin Design Week, and geared to catalyze conversation around City issues, the panel will include, among others, representatives from Watershed, Shadowing artists Chomko & Rosier, and a representative from York, UK—a fellow UNESCO City of Media Arts and previous Shadowing host city. The following day, Watershed staff will lead a half-day workshop designed to enable participants to explore the concept of the Playable City and discuss its relevance to Austin.
In January 2018, the Playable Austin project will conclude with a two-day “IdeaLab” workshop, utilizing the Playable City framework. Targeted at local creatives, the workshop will encourage participants to look at issues facing Austin and develop playable solutions. Day two of the IdeaLab will culminate with a free, public presentation of the group’s ideas, all of which will be considered by City staff for implementation.
Image: Shadowing by Farrows Creative © Watershed
City of Austin Cultural Arts Division
The Cultural Arts Division of the Economic Development Department provides leadership and management for the City’s cultural arts programs and for the development of arts and cultural industries. The Cultural Arts Division is responsible for the Cultural Arts Funding Programs, Art in Public Places Program, community-based arts development, and programs to assist the development of film and creative industries in Austin.
National Endowment for the Arts
Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. For more information, visit www.arts.gov.
Watershed (Bristol, UK) is a social enterprise and creator of the Playable Cities concept. They develop cultural engagement, imagination, and talent, in the belief that the route to better futures is open, disruptive and co-produced. As the leading film culture and digital media center in the UK, the group advances education, skills, appreciation and understanding of the arts with a particular focus on film, media and digital technologies.
Austin Design Week
Austin Design week celebrates Austin design and creative economy through a week of workshops, talks, studio tours and events in November. The community is invited to propose and showcase the best in visual, interactive, product, industrial, architectural and civic design. The introduction of Design Week provides the opportunity to bring together the Austin design community like never before. From the spaces we’re inspired by, to the images that leap from the page, the products we use daily and the way we interact with them, Austin is pushing the boundaries of design. Explore the cutting edge work being done through some of the city’s most innovative creators. Austin Design Week 2017 runs November 6-10, 2017.