Public art is also important in that it breaks the frame of the sacred museum space (or the avant garde gallery space) and adorns the everyday spaces of a city. In providing for this, public and private organizations show that they believe in the populist value of art as universal enrichment, belonging to everyone, perhaps especially those who might feel excluded from the art world as such.
The City of San Antonio has made great strides of late in the realm of public art, and VIA, the city's one answer to the problem of mass transit, has also been increasingly active in recruiting writers and artists to beautify its stops, stations, and even the interior of its buses. VIA's latest foray into the realm of public art, through an initiative called the Art in Transit Program
, will be an exquisite on-site installation by local ceramics master Diana Kersey, at the VIA Five Points Stop (at Fredericksburg and Flores, near VIA's main administrative offices). Installation of the work is expected to begin this month.
We caught up with Kersey—whose brilliant ceramic work ranges from small items like pots and vases and ornamental items to much larger and more adventurous pieces—at her home studio, to discuss the project and the value of public art in her estimation.
Kersey is warm, delightfully sharp, and eager detail her process in the easygoing, generous, and wise manner you might expect of someone who has long tended to (and mastered) artistic creation.
Kersey, who fell in love with ceramics long ago for its "physicality and versatility," noted that mastering the potter's art requires skill "in chemistry, engineering, math, history, and geology, in addition to the technical skills one acquires learning the various forming processes." Plus, she added, "the materials smell good."
For her VIA Five Points installation, answering a call for an "urban oasis" theme, Kersey has created "five interrelated columns, all different in form and surface, but all containing design motifs that celebrate the natural world." Hoping to welcome the natural world into her artistic representations of it, Kersey noted that "some parts of the brick columns even have little holes in them to possibly support insects and lizards."
Speaking in general about the value of public art, Kersey explained that "investment in public art throughout our city sends a powerful message that each resident matters, regardless of ethnicity or economic class." She added that, "Everyone who walks or drives by one of my bridges [a reference to Kersey's three other public art contributions in town] owns a little piece of that artwork, and when I am honored with a public commission, I strive to create something that will become a beloved part of the area long after I am gone."
VIA's Manager of Facility Programs, Abigail Kinnison Rodriguez, told the Current
via email that the agency is thrilled with Kersey's work on the project, saying that by "embracing public art, VIA is making a commitment to the community it serves, and is better able to personalize its relationship with transit riders, area visitors, and the general public."
Public art is an essential component of any truly thriving city. The statement that (tactful, thoughtful) public art projects make to the residents of a city is multifaceted, involving the dual recognition(s) that art is valuable and improves quality of life – and that, as such, everyone deserves art in their lives.