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Cataloging Mobile’s Public Art

date: August 14, 2014

Article written by Karen Spaulding

With the help of funding from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the Mobile Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Downtown Mobile Alliance,  Bobbie Dixon has been busy helping the Mobile Arts Council track down public art in Mobile.  A recent graduate of the Univ. of South Alabama, Dixon has been working on the project since January. Her job was to first define and then find the public art in the Hank Aaron Loop downtown. 

“Once we had done those things, we had photos taken of the art and I researched the art works. Once we had facts like date, medium, artist, and location we were ready to start adding them to a site called Public Art Archive. We even plan to one day include the art works in an app so that when you are visiting downtown you will be notified when you are near public art,” Dixon explained.

One of the greatest parts of her internship was learning about the history of Mobile, with a lot of the public art based on that history. She noted that finding the artists of many older pieces has been difficult. For instance, the cross in Bienville Square tells who donated it, and the date, but not the artist. Dixon noted that her research uncovered about 70 works of public art, including the recently completed oysters and murals.

Conversations with artists such as Casey Downing helped define ‘what is public art?’ Downing, whose sculpture graces the Unity Point fountain, noted that “public art is anything the public has access to, and can always be changing, as opposed to private art, which can be very expensive.”

As this phase of the project nears completion, most of the material is ready to upload, and Dixon is looking for job opportunities and preparing to pursue a masters degree in art history. Meggan and Jeff Haller of Keyhole Photography are documenting the works.     

The ultimate goal is for the Mobile Area Public Art Catalogue to be available as a smart phone app, website, brochure, and possibly other print formats, ideally becoming a model for the rest of the state, resulting in an Alabama Public Art Catalogue.

According to Arts Council Associate Director Charlie Smoke, phase two will involve the design and printing of a brochure for a walking tour, listing all the works with basic information about them and featuring a map showing their locations. Specific decisions about the best method(s) of making the information available will be made in phase two of the project, after additional research.

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