The City of Austin’s Cultural Arts Division announced the launch of the City’s first Artist-in-Residence program this past February. On April 20, 2017, the Division announced the selection of Rehab El Sadek as artist-in-residence for the program’s inaugural year. She was selected by City staff from a competitive applicant pool, and will be embedded within the Watershed Protection Department for a nine-month residency beginning in May.
A painter, photographer, printmaker and installation artist, El Sadek has an established social and artistic practice. She has initiated workshops and creative interventions on issues ranging from women’s rights to children with disabilities. A native of Egypt now based in Austin, El Sadek has created work in locations as far away as Africa and Pakistan, and as close as Dallas. She has had solo exhibitions in galleries in Amsterdam, London, and Cairo, among other locations, and has been included in dozens of group presentations.
“We are pleased to welcome Rehab El Sadek as the first Artist-in-Residence with the City of Austin,” said Meghan Wells, Cultural Arts Division Manager. “Rehab brings to the program a creative practice that investigates the importance and impact of social issues through her own unique cultural and artistic lens.”
The mission of the Watershed Protection Department is to protect lives, property, and the environment in Austin by reducing the impact of flood, erosion and water pollution. To that end, El Sadek intends to use her residency to create artworks “that engage the public around concepts of nature,” and to implement a plan for raising awareness about the role of water in the environment. Specifics of her artwork and her process for community engagement will be developed in coming months in collaboration with Watershed Protection staff.
The Artist-in-Residency program was chosen from a field of staff-generated proposals in the City’s Idea Accelerator initiative, administered by the Office of Innovation, with the goal of embedding artists within City departments to help resolve problems, provide innovative or new process improvements, and engage residents around community issues in creative ways. It supports various City initiatives and efforts, including the Music and Creative Ecosystem Omnibus Resolution, Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, and the City’s newly launched Equity Assessment Tool. In future years, the Cultural Arts Division hopes to expand the program to include a wider range of participating City departments, with artists working in multiple disciplines.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON THE PROGRAM
Artist-in-Residence programs have been implemented in city governments across the United States, from Boston to Los Angeles, and have been successful in supporting local artists and improving local governments and the communities they serve. As out-of-the-box thinkers, artists can offer unique perspectives on civic processes, often resulting in engaging, imaginative interventions that resonate with the community. As part of Austin’s residency program, the selected artist will be asked to develop creative approaches to address issues identified by the participating department.
The Watershed Protection Department is the first to participate in this pilot program. The mission of the Watershed Protection Department is to protect lives, property and the environment of our community by reducing the impact of flood, erosion and water pollution. The department provides a range of community resource and education programs to encourage informed decision-making about flood safety, erosion control and water quality issues The department plans to position the selected artist to work closely with their Watershed Education section to add additional creativity to their multimedia approach to increasing program visibility in communities,. The artist will work with staff from both Watershed Protection and the Cultural Arts Division to formulate goals, deliverables, scope, community involvement, and artistic focus.
The outcome of the residency depends on the artist’s journey in learning about, working alongside, and connecting with the department and the community, but it is hoped that the artist will create an in-depth experience between the artist, the City department, and community; explore pathways for ideas to be more fully exchanged between the community and the City department; foster engagement by community members and the City department in innovative or expanded ways; and find a vehicle for creative expression that adds depth to the artist’s social practice and portfolio. The final project outcome may result in a discrete work of art, enhanced community collaborations, or may take any number of shapes, provided the artist and host department are in agreement.
The 2017 Artist-in-Residence program is scheduled to run from May– December 2017. The selected artist will be provided with a budget of $8,750 for time spent working on the residency, and a maximum of $5,000 for residency-related expenses.
An artist information meeting was held on Thursday, January 19, 2017 to explain the parameters of the project and outline the application procedures. The meeting may be viewed here. The deadline to apply for 2017 was February 16, 2017.
For an RFQ with complete program details, click here.