ABU DHABI // A host of international art experts met Abu Dhabi government officials in a three-day workshop to establish a public arts programme in the capital. The Public Art Strategy workshop was hosted by the Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, which supports and invests in social and cultural initiatives. The foundation, established by Sheikha Salama, wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, brought together government agencies and international experts to integrate public art into Abu Dhabi's development projects.
Among them was Barbara Goldstein, the director of public art for San Jose in California who has also been a public art director in Los Angeles and Seattle. "Public art has completely evolved from the guy-on-horseback political thinking, to a much more integrated, diversified aesthetic," said Jennifer Easton, a project manager at San Jose's Public Art Programme and long-time colleague of Ms Goldstein. "These pieces really become the focal point of a city."
Ms Easton gave the example of Chicago's Cloud Gate, a 13-metre-tall work made up of 168 panels of polished stainless steel - each weighing in excess of 1,000 tonnes. Chicagoans refer to it as "the big bean". "Rents rose exponentially, it became a desirable place to be," she said. The workshop culminated in the drafting of a public art policy and strategy to regulate and promote public art in the city.
Ms Easton said the key to success would be paying attention to the local community, and sculpture that had no relation to a community was usually ineffective: "It is important to engage with a community before jumping into a project."