Public Relations 5/A Gift of Art: Generosity is Never a Bad Idea

January 6, 2016

Header Photo: Don’t Be Afraid, by Maser, South Richmond St., Dublin 2

“Focussing on aspects of interaction and relationship rather than on art objects calls for a radical rearrangement in our expectations of what an artist does.” Suzanne Lacy quoted in Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art


Public Relations: Art and Social Enactment, Pamela Whitaker

This is a course about social activation and participatory arts as public art forms. The course will involve group projects with each group developing their own website or blog to profile their research into participatory art and their implementation of a project in this area. The aim of the course is to offer experiential learning, and to explore methods of how art can be a means of social enactment and live communication with others. Participants will undertake their projects either in conjunction with a gallery education programme or on-site at NCAD. Each project will be uniquely titled, planned and conducted as a way of researching theoretical models that involve public interactions with art. The course will offer participants the opportunity to work together as a collective of artists, and to learn about collaboration first hand in regards to working with peers, initiating public engagement, and achieving an artistic enterprise.



Photo: Lori Gordon, Knitting Sittings, Sculpture, Performance,

Duration of Conversations Accompanied by Lori Gordon Completing a Knitted Gift: Beth 4 Hours, Melissa 5.5 Hours, Scott 3.5 Hours, etc.

“I create functional knitted objects for the sitter, and they are required to be present for the entire duration of making the object. During this time, an intimate conversation is had between myself and the sitter” (Lori Gordon).

“Lori Gordon invokes the handmade family gift, offering to knit something warm and cozy in exchange for a few hours of shared time. By the end of the session, a relationship has formed, and the gift has been invested with sentimental importance.” (Anu Vikram, Exhibitions Director, Richmond Art Centre, California)

Free Website or Blogs for Group Projects







Photos: The People’s Library, Come Author Your Own Book, Libraries Designed, Built and Authored by Community Members

The People’s Library is an ongoing collaborative project featuring libraries designed, built and authored by community members. The project transforms and repurposes discarded books into blank canvasses for the production and exchange of local histories.

In Richmond, Virginia in partnership with the Main Branch of the Richmond Public Library, a thousand blank books are being created for anyone in the community to check out, bring home, fill with their histories and bring back to the library to be included in the permanent collection. The resulting installation includes a thousand micro-monuments, becomes the real and symbolic meeting place for alienated publics, and offers sustainable, collective and critical alternatives for the form and function of public art… People’s Library champions collective production as an avenue for face to face interaction between diverse publics. The project reflects the histories, needs, desires of local residents, and reinterprets public institutions as a space for production, meditation, and alternative education.Individuals in youth programs at each library have co-facilitated dozens of workshops. At each workshop, which are free and open to the public, participants complete various tasks, engage in conversation and learn functional creative skills.

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Photos: Erica Felder, The Bird Feeder Hat

Terms of Reference

Participation = The act of taking part and being related to a larger whole. Participation can involve team-work, collective decision making, sharing and joint decision making. 

Participatory Art = Participatory art is a term that describes a form of art that directly engages the audience in the creative process so that they become participants in the event (

Community Arts = Art is part of a community of relationships with a specific context or locality. Art reaches out to participants who engage and impact its purpose and manifestation. Community art is artistic activity that is based in a community setting, characterised by interaction or dialogue with the community and often involving a professional artist collaborating with people who may not otherwise engage in the arts (

Art Intervention = An artist’s interaction with an audience or venue/site or space, where the artwork created is often temporary and sometimes is realised as a performative event or communication platform. It often carries an implication of subversion, operating counter to the authority, challenging or provoking comment in relation to the context and the expectations of a particular public (

Socially Engaged Art = Socially engaged practice describes art that is collaborative, often participatory and involves people as the medium or material of the work. Socially engaged practice can be associated with activism because it often deals with political issues. Artists who work within this field will often spend much time integrating into the specific community which they wish to help, educate or simply share with (

Social Practice = Social practice [also called socially engaged art] can include any artform which involves people and communities in debate, collaboration or social interaction. This can often be organised as the result of an outreach or education program, but many independent artists also use it within their work ( 

Public Relations = Actions promoting the creation of goodwill and communication between people. 

Public Art = Presenting an artwork to a community, or within a public space where other people play a role in the art’s production or participate in relationships that produce art as an object, environment, conversation/interaction, service, etc.

Enactment = acting out, active expression and communication,  making a message or experience come alive.

Collaboration = Working together to achieve a common purpose through partnership or team effort. 

Situation = a set of conditions, locations, people, moments in time and circumstances as a context for participatory art. 

Haircuts by Children, Mammalian Diving Reflex, 2006 to the present.

Mammalian Diving Reflex views innovative artistic interventions as a way to trigger generosity and equity across the universe. We create work that recognizes the social responsibility of art, fostering a dialogue between audience members, between the audience and the material, and between the performers and the audience. In all it’s forms, the company’s work dismantles barriers between individuals of all ages, cultural, economic and social backgrounds; we collaborate with non-artists, and offer both participatory opportunities for the audience as well as the traditional option of simply watching the proceedings as they unfold. It is our mission to bring people together in new and unusual ways.

Haircuts by Children invites the consideration of young people as creative and competent individuals whose aesthetic choices can be trusted. While providing atypical entertainment for the public, Haircuts by Children also shifts the traditional power dynamic between children and adults, creating a safe social space where children and adults who live in the same community can meet and share a unique creative experience together. The idea that kids should be allowed to cut our hair evokes the same leap of faith, courage and understanding required to grant children deeper citizenship rights. For many it is actually less terrifying to contemplate allowing kids to vote. (Artistic Director Darren O’Donnell, Mammalian Diving Reflex)



Photo Top: Photo: Rivane Neuenschwander, I Wish Your Wish, Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), Photo Below: I Wish Your Wish, Miami Art Museum on July 2011. Chocolate Milk, Photography.

I Wish Your Wish, Rivane Neuenschwander, 2003 is based on a tradition at a church in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, where the faithful tie silk ribbons to their wrists and to the gates of the church; and, according to tradition, their wishes are granted when the ribbons wear away and fall off. At IMMA hundreds of similar ribbons are printed with visitors’ wishes from Neuenschwander’s past projects exhibited elsewhere. Visitors are invited to remove a ribbon from the wall and tie it around their wrist. According to Brazilian tradition, the wish is granted when the ribbon wears away and falls off. In exchange, the artist asks you to write your wish on the paper available and insert it in the ribbon hole. The artist collects your wishes and some are added to the work when next the piece is exhibited again (Irish Museum of Modern Art,

Photo: Michael Swaine, Reap What You Sew and Mending for the People

The white cube is usually seen as an emblem of the estrangement of the artist from a society to which the gallery also provides access.

Brian Doherty, Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Galley Space)


Public Art,

Click the Thinking heading in the top menu, and then check out the writing, definitions and glossary sections. These headings have some material relating to participatory art, and might prove useful for essays.

ReCreate: Creativity Through Re-Use,

ReCreate is a national social enterprise that takes end of line and surplus stock from businesses and reuses them as arts materials. Our warehouse is full to the brim with all types of fantastic arts materials such as paper, wool, plastics, fabric, tubing, foam and many other unusual and unexpected surprises. Annual Student Memberships Available.

Opportunities within Visual Arts

Visual Artists Ireland/Jobs, Internships and Volunteering

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