Good Art Hunting
'Cracks in the Pavement' is back, giving Austinites another chance to discover art left on sidewalks, under bridges, beside freeways, in park bushes, and in other unlikely corners of the cityscape
The gift was a hand-carved prayer bench with cloth upholstery on which was embroidered in red: "Your happiness is intertwined with your outlook on life. Lucky Numbers 12, 19, 30, 34, 44, 46." It had been left by its creator near a picnic area in Seider Springs Park, off 34th Street around Seton Medical Center, to be found by anyone who might be in the area a small artistic treasure hidden in the urban landscape.
And there are many more such treasures waiting to be found in odd places through the city. "Cracks in the Pavement," the interactive project that gave Austinites last summer the chance to discover art on sidewalks, under bridges, beside freeways, on suburban streets, deep in park bushes, and in other unlikely corners of the cityscape, is back. Three weeks ago, 15 local art-makers seeded the city with small creations to be found as people traverse the "in-between spaces" of their daily lives. The idea is to get us "to engage with the environment on an intimate level," as project organizer Heather Johnson puts it, to look more closely at the world we move through every day. She designed "Cracks in the Pavement" so this might happen accidentally, when someone stumbles across one of these deposited artworks, or by design, as people actively seek them out, based on maps and clues on the Web site www.cracksinthepavement.com.
Last year's launch in Austin and London (where "Cracks" was part of the London Bienniale, a sprawling DIY art exhibition), generated such a strong response that Johnson was inspired to see how far she could spread the project. After e-mailing everyone she knew and putting a call for proposals on Internet bulletin boards, which was then picked up on "scads of public art search engine lists," she says, the project has gone global in a phenomenal way. This summer, artists are leaving gifts in the urban landscapes of 21 communities across the U.S. and six cities abroad, including three in Australia. ("I have no idea, by the way," says Johnson, "how the Australians got word of it.") Besides Austin, the project has already started in Corpus Christi, Houston, Humble, and Marfa, Texas; Brooklyn, Queens, and New York City, N.Y.; Charleston, S.C.; Santa Fe, N.M.; Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra, Australia; and Wiesbaden, Germany, with Ashburn, Va.; Atlanta, Ga.; Charlotte, N.C.; Portland, Ore.; Berkeley, San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, and Marin Headlands, Calif.; Sumter, S.C.; Vancouver, Wash.; Toronto, Canada; and London again joining the fun over the next six weeks. For Johnson, "getting to know so many great artists in so many places, near and far, and witnessing connections between these people despite physical and cultural differences" has been very fulfilling personally, as has "facilitating an exchange of ideas between Austinites and people in other cities and countries."
Works are already being found and their discoveries recorded on the project Web site. The fortunate finder of the embroidered prayer bench reported taking it home where "it's become the centerpiece of this impromptu makeshift shrine with several other religious and pagan symbols that were scattered around the house but are now congregated around the bench." Wouldn't you like to encounter some art in the wild, to find and make part of your life? Then get hunting.