About the work
1) How would you explain your topic to someone who is unfamiliar with planning?
Grace: Planning involves a process of collaboration. Where a public agency is seeking to address a regional problem, like unemployment, collaborating with other public agencies outside of their own sphere of influence will be critical. The jobs and housing imbalance is a regional issue, especially for a housing rich environment like Riverside County. It is a problem that impacts the economic vitality, environmental vigor and social equity issues within an area. Only successful collaboration among various public agencies will bring balance to a region’s health and well-being.
2) Discuss how the art piece interprets the planning concept. What was the thinking behind the creation of the piece?
Selena: When Grace and I were discussing the topic, it didn’t take long for us to bring the conversation toward quality of life. She and I are both mothers of young children, we both work full time, and both of us (ironically) have a commute each day. We are both painfully aware of the fact that we would much rather trade those minutes on the road for minutes with our kids and taking care of our homes. Not only is time to play integral to being emotionally well rounded, but clean air is also important. No one wants to raise kids in the smog, or live in the smog for that matter, but many of us do because of a variety of circumstances. If we can rearrange the balance of jobs and housing we will see cleaner air within the next generations.
Grace: The March Joint Powers Authority is an agency created to promote collaboration between the cities of Riverside, Perris and Moreno Valley and the County of Riverside. The agency is tasked with creating a job center for the region so the art piece is an artistic representation of the collaboration between the MJPA’s member agencies.
3) What do you want people to get out of your piece? What information or idea do you want them to walk away with after viewing it?
Grace: That cross-sector collaboration works and it is a benefit not only for the agencies involved, but for the community at large.
Selena: It has been awesome to have the opportunity to use art to convey the interconnected nature between our quality of life and the balance of jobs and housing. This affects our ability to spend time with our loved ones and our passions rather than commuting long hours. It also contributes to the air quality as well because a commuter is a polluter. Last but not least, a long commute takes money out of a residents community because they will tend to shop, gas up, and eat near their place of employment. I want viewers to be reminded of what we work for. For most of us it is either to make the world a better place, or for our own pursuit of happiness, not to spend time in our cars. Hopefully the piece allows people a moment to consider how balanced their own lives are, and to reflect on what adjustments might it take to be as happy and healthy as possible while working for a living.
4) How did the collaboration affect the outcome? Did the planner influence the artist, and/or did the artist influence the planner? How so?
Grace: The planner provided thoughts on jobs-housing imbalance, and the artist provided feedback on how the planner’s thoughts could be expressed artistically. The process was an informal, but energetic, exchange of ideas. From the planner’s perspective, it was a wonderful time of sharing information and learning.
How would the process have been different if there had only been planner/planner or artist/artist teams?
The artistic piece would not have been as interesting if it was one created by planners only. Artists definitely provide perspectives that not only challenge how planners think about space, but force planners to think about how art can provide solutions to the identity crisis that many of our communities experience today. How would people know when they have exited one city and entered into another, other than through freeway signs? Without freeway signs, one would not know what community they are driving through, and that is tragic. Art can provide a number of solutions to the issue of community identity.
Selena: One of the most important aspects of this project is the dialogue and collaboration- the creative and organic PROCESS. Art is not so much about the end product, but about communication. In this project different perspectives worked together to convey to an audience of common people a particular topic. There is a very narrow conception as to what public art is, and this project helps to widen the perspective and open up some possibilities; the possibility of having artists as part of the dialogue regarding the shape and form of our communities is the most exciting. I think that by including artists on all phases of developing a community, no matter how uncreative an aspect might appear, we will see a unique impact on the image and culture of our different communities. I stress the word “different.” A major byproduct of this exchange is an enhanced sense of place, especially needed in newer urban communities filled with track homes and strip malls.
5) What did you personally get out of the experience? New information? New perspectives?
Selena: Learning about the March Joint Powers Authority project has been interesting. There are so many layers of cooperation from different bureaucracies; it’s amazing that the vision is a pretty holistic one with the health of the community in mind. Grace and I became very enthusiastic about developing a custom piece that reflects our topic to be installed somewhere within the development. We are hoping to use an airplane propeller as a merry-go-round that children can actually use. School children from the four partner jurisdictions will contribute their artwork to the blades, and the piece will serve as a reminder that playtime is important no matter how old you are. If you are always in your car, there is no time for that, and if too many people are always driving the air is no good to play in either. It is in all of our best interests to slow down and invest in the balance of our communities.
Grace: I have learned the tremendous value in artists’ feedback on planning. The artist that I worked with, Selena, impressed me with how quickly she could flesh out design ideas that I would never have considered when thinking about public art. She was incredibly flexible in her thoughts while I felt constrained by views of others, rules and regulations. She stretched my thinking process and helped me believe that anything is possible when it comes to art. This experience has been a very valuable learning experience that I will remember forever.