Illuminating DowntownSan Jose, CA
On many fronts, the City of San Jose is focused on creative place making. A major focus is to create a downtown that looks and feels like the “Capital of Silicon Valley.” San Jose Public Art was awarded an ArtPlace grant to launch Illuminating Downtown – a transformative vision to engage the built environment from building tops to streetscapes through art, light and technology.
ArtPlace spoke with Barbara Goldstein, Public Art Director for the City of San Jose about the role of collaborators and partnerships outside of the City that are helping to move Illuminating Downtown” forward.
ARTPLACE: Who outside your organization has been key to your ability to move your initiative forward?
GOLDSTEIN: Illuminating Downtown relies on partnerships for its success and, in that regard, we are extremely lucky that many of our arts and civic organizations share a common goal of creative placemaking through artistic enhancements. For example, at the same time we were planning to create an illuminated freeway underpass as the western “gateway” to downtown, we discovered that San Jose Downtown Association was planning a similar project. We joined forces with SJDA to commission artist Dan Corson to create interactive lighting for two freeway underpasses transitioning these dark divides into visually engaging locations.
We also have a strong partnership with 1stACT Silicon Valley that has been evolving for over five years. Beginning in 2006, we worked with 1stACT in developing their strategy of Big Deals, Small Wonders. We presented our public art plan for downtown to 1stACT’s “friends and family” gathering in October 2009, and, as we developed the ideas for Illuminating Downtown, we met regularly with 1stACT’s Catalyst Team to hear their ideas.
Both of these partnerships have allowed us to open up conversations with others: property owners, civic organizations, and potential funders. We are now extending the conversation about Illuminating Downtown by partnering with 1stACT, ZERO1 and SPUR, our local urban design advocacy organization, to co-sponsor a public presentation by Robin Nigh, Director of Lights on Tampa. While Robin is in San Jose we are hosting focus groups with other potential partners to bring them into the conversation. So we are reaching within our community and to colleagues nationwide to ensure our project has a solid foundation on which to build our successes.
ARTPLACE: Are there secrets to good partnerships?
GOLDSTEIN: The key to good partnerships is respect and inclusion. Although we are initiating the Illuminating Downtown project, many individuals and groups have been working towards a similar goal. Our goal is not to control the project but to initiate an idea that is will ultimately be embraced and carried forward by many partners. Building this partnership involves meeting with everyone who has a stake in its success, listening to their goals, finding points of common interest, identifying resources and working together to accomplish something bigger than we can accomplish on our own. We listen to the goals and visions of partners and potential partners to determine the ability to move forward together. Partnerships entail sharing the credit, working as a team, and opening up to the ideas of others. We fully anticipate that our original project ideas will evolve as these conversations unfold.