Conversations with the Artists: Nadi Design / by Place Lab

Nadi Design is one of the six finalists in ArtHouse's public art commissions. This team will submit a proposal for the ArtHouse commission Illumination. The artists selected for ArtHouse's public art commissions will be announced in late May 2016.


What motivated you to apply for the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge at ArtHouse? If you have a connection to Gary, what is it?
At Nadi Design we are committed to creating memorable destinations, places and spaces in the public realm that make a difference in the lives of the people they serve— whether the space just brightens their day or has an impact on how they see the world around them. In reading about the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge at ArtHouse, we felt the competition spoke to our firm’s philosophy. We were instantly on board. Gary’s rising community energy, represented in part by individuals such as the unbelievably spirited and enthusiastic Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, and Theaster Gates, Jr., who is directly involved in ArtHouse itself, became another motivation for applying for the Art Challenge.

As far as a connection to Gary, Indiana, we have an office located in Chicago, Illinois so our connection to Gary is being neighbors to the community.

Andrea Polli, Particle Falls, 2014. Interactive projection, Detroit, Michicgan. Photo by Jared Rendon-Trompak

Andrea Polli, Particle Falls, 2014. Interactive projection, Detroit, Michicgan. Photo by Jared Rendon-Trompak

Are there examples of public art works that have had an impact on you?
Andrea Polli’s Particle Falls, is a temporary, traveling, public art piece that communicates with the public about the air quality in their community. The piece is an animated light projection of blue falling lines representing clean air and yellow lights representing particles. The piece changes with the atmosphere around it. The surrounding air is continuously analyzed and the imagery projected alters with the findings of the analysis. The piece reflects the amount of air pollution in the community and in a beautiful way it raises awareness of the concerns regarding air pollution close to home.

Does your approach to a public commission differ from the approach you take to other work, such as for private clients, exhibitions, galleries, or targeted audiences? If so, how? If not, why not?
Our approach to designing for a public commission does not differ from how we design for other clients. In every instance we aim to produce work that connects with the genius loci of a place. There is always the need to learn and understand the context. Our design approach and methods work with a thorough, collaborative understanding of the aims and needs of our client, regardless of if that client is an individual, a corporation, or a community.

Water feature in Water Bend Park, Manitoba. Designed by Nadi Design.

Water feature in Water Bend Park, Manitoba. Designed by Nadi Design.

Why do you feel that public art is important to communities?
We feel public art is important to communities because art is essential in creating communities. Public art activates dialogue within the community; it gives character to the spaces inhabited by the community and form landmarks/destinations in the fabric of a community. Public art aids in making places and spaces for communities to identify with, question and build memories around.

Should your proposal be chosen as the winning artwork, how do you envision the Gary community would be involved in bringing the work to fruition?
We envision generations of Gary’s citizens being involved in the process of bringing the design vision to reality. We would engage the youth of Gary for their input and thoughts on the conceptual design. We would also inspire the youth to be the “on the ground” promoters of the project. We hope the youth will spearhead the social media campaign publicizing the concept of the installation and their home, Gary, Indiana. With the energy of the youth behind the social media campaign we see the larger community being inspired and joining in. Local manufactures would also be approached to participate in the fabrication of the components of the installation. We hope to enable opportunities to have youth alongside the skilled trades of Gary learning and helping out in the fabrication of the installation as is appropriate.

What do you want to convey about cities in your commissioned work of art (or in the process that leads up to its installation)?
With the installation and the process leading up to the installation we are aiming to convey to the community and surrounding areas that Gary, Indiana is not a vacant, declining community but a community of opportunity, full of potential and strong spirit. We hope to convey that Gary, Indiana is a community poised for growth and showcase ArtHouse as being a catalyst for this growth.

Anything else you’d like to add, or tell ArtHouse fans?
The team here at Nadi Design is abuzz about the competition, we all thrive on design and delight in opportunities involving community based design. We are honored and excited about being short-listed for the ArtHouse: Illumination competition and are looking forward to meeting the ArtHouse Team and jury members on Monday. We also hope to stop in at Mama Pearl’s for a bite to eat. At Nadi Design we have made it part of our studio culture to enjoy food together, every two weeks we have afternoon appetizers and drinks together and every Monday morning we meet over a homemade breakfast provided by a different co-worker each week. We like to think of ourselves as not only design connoisseurs but also amateur food connoisseurs or you could say we just enjoy our food.


Nadi Design is a boutique design practice providing meaningful service to its clients, environments, and communities. With a desire to leave a positive, sustainable, and memorable legacy in every environment it touches, Nadi Design strives to build a practice based on integrity, collaboration and trust, and believes that people and their daily interactions form the core of great public spaces. Specializing in interior design, urban design, planning, landscape architecture, and land art, Nadi Design seeks to enrich communities through innovative, thoughtful designs that generate civic pride. Learn more about Nadi Design.