This past year, students developed a project in California’sSan Joaquin Valley, in the small farming town of Laton. With aplanning grant from the Ford Foundation, the project focusedon an environment informed by ecological problems, poverty,economics of food production, school dropout rates, and the lossof farmland. In spite of this regional picture, Laton offered anopportunity for students to engage with the benefits of a smalltown culture—rich with mutual support, strong families, and asense of civic responsibility.In the Public Practice Program, graduate students explorenew artistic strategies based on observation, research, socialcommentary and activism. Students work in individual studioson a single significant project in collaboration with each other,community members, interdisciplinary scholars, and an interna-tionally known faculty. Graduating students present a variety ofvisual and performance arts productions in the public realm atthe end of their tenure at Otis.The program is housed at the 18th Street Art Center in SantaMonica, a nonprofit residential arts institution for artists andorganizations dedicated to issues of community and diversity incontemporary society. The College offers outstanding facilities insculpture, painting, graphic arts, illustration, video, photography,computer-generated model-making and digital technologywhere students can explore skills specific to their project needs.An intimate class size supports mentorship, case-study learning,and production skills in installation, performance, process art,guerilla art and interdisciplinary projects. All students createa written thesis integrating theory and practice in art, urbanism,civic life, or other subjects supporting a critical discourse ontheir work. Participants also do field internships with professionalartists, and teach as assistants in Otis’ groundbreaking under-graduate Integrated Learning curriculum. This year, NimoyResident Artist Rick Lowe, creator of Project Row Houses, willwork with the graduate students.
Jules Rochelle Sievert at left; Suzanne Lacy and Program Manager Consuelo Velascoin front, with members of the class of ‘09 and visitors to
p.i.e. (public interventionist education)
at Santa Monica College’s Pete & Susan Barrett Art Gallery
SUZANNE LACYCHAIR, GRADUATE PUBLIC PRACTICE
“I believe that a desirable future depends on our deliberatelychoosing a life of action over a life of consumption, on ourengendering a lifestyle which will enable us to be spontaneous,independent, yet related to each other, rather than maintaininga lifestyle which only allows to make and unmake, produce andconsume—a style of life which is merely a way station onthe road to the depletion and pollution of the environment.The future depends more upon our choice of institutions whichsupport a life of action than on our developing new ideologiesand technologies.” —Ivan IllichAutomatic. Everyday, at hyper-speed, whether I want to or not,I am performing a gender, a race, a specific time in history, a class,and sexuality. I am performing the institution of the city, a body,the pedestrian, the transit user, or the city dweller. Unwittingly,my body, my mind and spirit have institutionalized this process,reflecting how the body and spirit embody the historical memoryof all things that came before.My primary artistic concern rests with HOPE and the collectiveand, how we as artists, crafts people, cultural workers and creativethinkers and dialogue builders begin to collectively and collabora-tively visualize a present and future based on knowledge we haveregarding our history and past. Do we use broken models fromthe past or do we choose how to think about things deeply?In my awareness of time-space compression, I am choosing adiscursive art form as a means to become more civically engagedas a mechanism for problem solving and design. “The PortableCity” is about creating a social space through which to engagepeople in conversation and exchange, using an arts-basedapproach to building human connection while ending the silencethat exists between us; it is a study on creating dialogue amongstthose who experience urban alienation and isolation: Theconversations held in real time act as a platform for the idea ofconnection and dialogue.The “Portable City” project asserts that the ‘I” and “thou”become meaningfully engaged through communicating about ashared experience, and thoughts about a shared relationship tothe landscape, geography and public space, day-to-day life, andour sense of memory and belonging. It has been deeply inspiredby the work and writings of Guy Debord and The SituationistInternational, the notion of the Soapbox and the Speakers Corner,Allan Kaprow, Relational Aesthetics, and my own dérives.
Ending the Silence Between Us
The program, under the leadership of Suzanne Lacy, the renownedartist, educator, and author of the influential
Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art,
enriches Los Angeles’ remarkable mix of artschools and distinguished history of artistic innovation.
Three projects by members of the first graduatingclass evince new strategies for public art.
JULES ROCHIELLE SIEVERT (’09, MFA)
Graduate Public Practice
After several months of ﬁeld work and research in the Central Valley,students created projects on Main St. such as storefront painting,projections of images of the region’s daily life, and a new sign/gatefor the town’s entry. “Laton Live!,” an event celebrating thetown’s rich heritage, took place on March 21. In “The Little CA Townthat Served as a Muse,”
writer Susan Emerling wrote“The residents of Laton got to see themselves through the eyesof a dedicated group of (Otis) outsiders, and those outsiders got tosee the effect of their work on their adopted town.”See more at