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.

Conversations with the Artists: Felix "Flex" Maldonado Jr. by Place Lab

Felix "Flex" Maldonado Jr. is one of six finalists chosen to make a full proposal for ArtHouse's public art commissions. Maldonado will propose a work for the commission Surface. 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?
What motivated me to apply was the fact that I wanted to take on the challenge of such a great project. I have direct connections to Gary in the sense that I grew up working with my dad at U.S. Steel, and having family and friends from there, I felt it was my duty to represent the region.

The Chicago Picasso, an untitled monumental sculpture by Pablo Picasso sited at Daley Plaza in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by J. Crocker.

The Chicago Picasso, an untitled monumental sculpture by Pablo Picasso sited at Daley Plaza in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by J. Crocker.

Are there examples of public art works that have had an impact on you?
Although I feel any successful public work should portray some sense of inspiration, I first felt the impact of such success when I first started art school and saw Picasso’s Chicago sculpture at the Daley Plaza.

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?
My approach to any public commission does not really differ too much from my clients or private work because I take every project, commission or body of work with the same quality, pride and work ethic— anything less is unacceptable.

Why do you feel that public art is important to communities?
Having done numerous public art projects, I find it a very important vitality to any community. Aside from the visual inspiration (or just seeing something more beautiful than what was previously there) It creates a platform for dialog within the community.

Portrait by Flex Maldonado. Image courtesy of the artist.

Portrait by Flex Maldonado. Image courtesy of the artist.

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?
If my proposal is chosen, God willing, I plan to incorporate the community into the mural; literally. I would like to keep my vision as genuine as possible by holding a “call-for-models” photoshoot and invite the people of Gary to model for the subjects that I have lain out in the mural.

What do you want to convey about cities in your commissioned work of art (or in the process that leads up to its installation)?
I want to convey the fact that Gary has not been forgotten but is rather very alive and actually progressing. I believe in the people of this region, they are very resilient by nature and have no plans on giving up. but I also want to convey that change is good and that it starts with one’s self.

Anything else you’d like to add, or tell ArtHouse fans?
I just want to thank everyone at ArtHouse for the tremendous opportunity to represent my region and if chosen I promise to not let the people of Gary down.

Peace!


Felix “Flex” Maldonado Jr. is a native of East Chicago, IN, Maldonado is a self-taught artist with more than twenty-five years of experience in painting, drawing, and graffiti art. He received his BFA in Advertising with a minor in Graphic Design from the American Academy of Art in Chicago. He has worked with several ad agencies in Chicago, and has directed and produced commercials for companies like Culligan Water, Peoples Energy, Roto-Rooter, Head Tennis and ATA Airlines. In 2003, Felix helped form CISA Studio, LLC., a creative services company producing local and national work in various disciplines, including murals, custom paint and airbrushing, advertising, design, and multimedia. Maldonado’s history of solo and group art exhibitions include exhibitions at the South Shore Arts Center (Munster), CISA Gallery (Hammond), The Mexican Fine Arts Museum (Chicago), Art Expo (Chicago), Swope Museum (Terre Haute), SOMArts Museum (San Francisco), Armory's Fountain Art Fair (New York City), and the “Paint, Paste, Sticker”/ Street Art show at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Conversations with the Artists: PIKE Projects / RAW Gallery Collaboration by Place Lab

PIKE Projects / RAW Gallery Collaboration is a two-person team based in Canada. 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?
We were attracted to ArtHouse’s objectives— a very earnest effort to affect positive change and address community challenges through art.

Cloud Gate (nicknamed 'The Bean') in Chicago, IL, by Anish Kapoor.

Cloud Gate (nicknamed 'The Bean') in Chicago, IL, by Anish Kapoor.

Are there examples of public art works that have had an impact on you?
We never tire of Cloud Gate, not only the sculpture but watching all types of people interact with it. Another would be the Warming Hut program – an international competition in Winnipeg to design small huts that shelter and/or amuse ice skaters as they glide along ice trails carved into the rivers that run through the city. Thirdly, Eisenman’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin is quite moving.

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?
The approach is the same as we deal with the specifics of each project no matter the owner or audience. We are very process driven and while the process starts in the same way every time, with gathering, studying and testing, it always ends up in a different, specific place. We allow what we learn to steer our process.

The award-winning Hygge House, a warming hut designed PIKE Projects in partnership with Plain Projects and Urbanink. Photo by Colin Grover.

The award-winning Hygge House, a warming hut designed PIKE Projects in partnership with Plain Projects and Urbanink. Photo by Colin Grover.

Why do you feel that public art is important to communities?
Public art gives a community a voice and provokes conversation about identity and values— a cultural reference point.

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?
From a physical standpoint, we hope members of the general population of Gary and the local steel industry can come together to assemble the work’s components on site as a team. Ultimately, the piece is incomplete unless occupied and, because it can be programmed in a very flexible manner, we look forward to seeing how the community will utilize it in ways beyond what we have imagined.

What do you want to convey about cities in your commissioned work of art (or in the process that leads up to its installation)?
We want to convey that change in cities can only come from their respective citizens and that art can be a catalyst for that process.

Anything else you’d like to add, or tell ArtHouse fans?
We don't have BBQ like Mama Pearl's up in Canada!


PIKE Projects / RAW Gallery Collaboration is a Winnipeg, Canada based team passionate about design for public benefit. With master's degrees from the Faculty of Architecture, University of Manitoba, Joe Kalturnyk of RAW and Colin Grover of PIKE are builders, artists and designers that have cut their teeth at many an architect's office, founded an architecture office, founded and operated an art gallery, won public art competitions, rebuilt a heritage hotel to house the homeless, are director and partner in a construction firm and run an annual pop-up restaurant on a frozen river. Published internationally, yet obsessed with the local and specific, we dig deep to find the critical elements of each situation and selectively amplify, contort and edit in search of the story - the shared spark that resonates. 

Gary Residents Ready For ArtHouse by Place Lab

If you feed them, they will come. 

A sage universalism to be sure, and perhaps part of the foundational inspiration for ArtHouse:  A Social Kitchen, soon to translate into a delectable spread of food, art and community.

As social kitchens go, this is a first for Gary, a community that lost both businesses and residents over several decades. After all, the city once had crazy bragging rights: the childhood home of the Jackson 5 and the site of a bustling steel industry that once employed a legion of workers. How many cities can lay claim to a family of entertainment superstars and an industrial boom?

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The First Home Grown Meal: By the Numbers by Place Lab

Home Grown Meals gather local Gary residents and other invited guests to share a meal and explore issues of civic import to place, community, and home. The first Home Grown Meal, "Reputation and Response," by the numbers -

35:  Number of guests gathered for our first Home Grown Meal

90+: Age of hosts Jeanne Preston and Michael Preston Sr., who welcomed guests to their home...

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