Public art commission seeks artists, project ideas
The mural painted on the exterior of Bath and Body Creations downtown Rhinelander is one example of public art.
By Eileen Persike, Editor
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” This quote, by 17th century French Impressionist artist Edgar Degas, could soon claim relevance in Rhinelander. Two members of the Rhinelander Public Art Commission laid out the organization’s vision and presented an update to the city council.
The five-person commission was approved in October 2021, and met for the first time in December to create a structure for the board and took a current inventory of public art. Public art takes many forms and can be sculpture, like the carved Hodag in a tree by the pickleball courts and the painted Hodags throughout town, murals – of which there are several in the city, community art, digital art, architecture such as the Oneida County Courthouse dome and even live performances.
Local artist and commission member Andrew Eagan said the group wants to send the community a message.
“Rhinelander is a community that cares about art and we’re looking for people to create art wherever they can, and we can facilitate that art,” Eagan said, adding, “I want to drive home the point of how important art is and why this commission is important, because it really impacts our daily lives.”
RPAC is finalizing plans for a “call for artists” process to get the ball rolling.
“What would that look like and how can we do things like highlight local artists and also try and pull in, maybe, some more established artists from elsewhere to enlighten and inspire our community,” RPAC member Jenny Bonardelli said.
The process includes an application that will be reviewed by the commission in consultation with city departments and even the city council.
The first project brought to the commission was the water art project on downtown sidewalks. Last spring James Williams Middle School students cut out cardboard stencils and sprayed them with a special solution that appeared only when it rained. Another project, approved in July, will be a mural on the wall of the Hodag Water Show concession and storage building at Hodag Park.
Not all public art must be in public spaces, Bonardelli noted. The RPAC is available as a resource to private property owners who may want guidance or input on an art project.
“The application is more or less kicking the door open for a real conversation on how to proceed,” Bonardelli said. “We want to be a hinge to bridge all interested parties and do it in a respectful and hopefully decent manner.”
Eagan told the city council the commission’s six month achievable goal is to see public art happen in the city, “making it an artistic and creative community to take part in.”