Among the many programs housed within the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA), the Art on Loan Program is one of the office’s signature activities. The Art on Loan Program supports the presentation of public art by purchasing works of art from local, regional, national and, on occasion, international artists. The goal is to make fine art available to Atlanta residents and employees by displaying pieces from the collection in public spaces.
The processes by which art is selected and acquired are varied. Most often, a jury is empaneled to select and purchase works. In my capacity as executive director, I sometimes come across works of art in galleries and other venues and make recommendations to staff for consideration. Other times, our office will issue requests for proposal (RFPs); thereby casting the broadest possible net in our efforts to identify diverse artists.
To date, the collection consists of over five hundred works and is on display in every City of Atlanta department (like Public Works and Finance), and in municipal buildings – including recreation centers. Previously, staff installed art based on individual preferences, availability and/or a combination of both.
Lately, Program Manager Kevin Sipp invites staff from departments interested in the program to work with him to select the pieces that will hang on the department’s walls. In the process, staff not only participate in “curating” the office gallery, but also, they learn about the artwork and the artists who created it. Thus, the program serves as a de facto crash course in art appreciation.
As a result, staff often better value the art in their office and can share information about it with those who visit. An unforeseen benefit of Kevin’s strategy is that he has uncovered a bevy of working artists within the ranks of City of Atlanta employees.
Perhaps the most visible and consequential space for which the Art on Loan Program provides art is the Mayor’s Executive Suite. When a new mayor is elected to office, OCA staff work with the incoming administration to select art that best reflects the taste and personality of the city’s top executive. Under the previous administration, Mayor Bottoms sought to rethink how the most powerful office in the city could better support Atlanta artists. To that end, she asked our staff to remove the portraits of previous mayors and to install a diverse assortment of artworks – including recently purchased works.
The strategy worked. The City of Atlanta Mayor’s Executive Suite is now a premier art gallery. At any given time, visitors will see artwork that is among the best in the country and represents Atlanta’s diversity. Included in the Executive Suite’s art rotation are historic images from the municipal court—images that not only contextualize the City of Atlanta’s current legislative activities, but also images that connect those living today with previous generations, as individuals will often recognize a face, a building and/or a location.
Mayor Dickens spoke openly and plainly about his desire to strengthen and broaden the arts in Atlanta. We are excited to see the role the Art on Loan Program will play during his administration – not only in the Executive Suite, but throughout the city. As new municipal buildings come online, we will have opportunities to beautify them and to educate employees and the public about the artworks and the artists who create them. Through the program’s activities, we raise awareness and make art more accessible.