Art-work, Controversy, and Walking the Raven Trail…by Forest Art Wisconsin Assistant Curator- Megan Lotts (essay from the catalog)
Every Saturday morning for the last three months, I would pack up my camping gear, grab a good book, turn my computer off and head north with my dog, Ivan. Our weekly expeditions brought us to Minocqua, Wisconsin, where I led guided tours of the Forest Art Wisconsin project. Each time I approached the parking lot or began a tour, I would mull over how I might engage the tour participants with this exciting, challenging exhibition. Occasionally I would have a moment of panic, wondering, will I be able to answer their questions in an engaging, factual way? How will I help to instill in the visitors a lasting thought or memory, an individual experience to remember upon their return home? This was the nature of sharing the art on the Raven Trail.
Often as I led tours and walked the trail, I found myself reminiscing about the three weeks when the collective team of artists, students, administrative staff, and Natural Resources Department folks were working in the forest creating site-specific installations. I enjoyed sharing with tour participants the many stories about the artwork as it happened along the trail, the social engagement with each other and the local residents, and how this interaction fueled the creative energies of the project. I also told viewers how important it was to remember that public art and projects of this nature can be risky. Being under the scrutiny of the public eye can easily ignite controversy, but to me, that’s part of the character and beauty of public art. A moment of controversy can lead to the beginning of a new, ongoing dialogue.
Public art gives the artist and community an opportunity to come together to create a dialogue. It provides a chance to share concepts with a greater population, getting them excited about new ideas and experiences they may not consider on a daily basis. Not every person will understand what an artist’s intentions were or why they have placed their work into an alternative public space like the forest. But that’s alright, because that’s a chance to learn about the importance of art in open and unusual spaces. It’s a chance to examine how we as individuals physically understand, share and engage in public spaces. Public art exhibitions like Forest Art Wisconsin are a way to spark creative thinking. It’s an opportunity for a community as a whole to collectively discuss ideas and topics that exist in their everyday lives, even subjects about which everyone may not agree.
As I lead my last tour today it ended with a gentleman coming up to me, shaking my hand, and expressing how the tour and exhibition had changed his understanding and perspective of beauty and art in alternative spaces. I looked at him, smiled, and responded that’s what this is all about…
For more information about the Forest Art Wisconsin please visit http://2007.waldkunst.com