The people of Binghamton sure love color (most likely compensating for the over abundance of grey skies). There are several fantastic murals around the area that are attributed to the community’s Department of Public Art or DPA. This community serving ad hoc group has come to determine that its not so easy mission is to enhance the visual appeal of Binghamton, while educating the masses on art, and restoring the city’s sense of pride. While the group’s goals of enhancing the city seems to be a lofty challenge, they are actually quite successful at accomplishing feats such as attracting talented artists such as world renowned airbrush artist, Bruce Greig, and the Jablons, who now undertake tile mosaics in the Binghamton area.
The people who put it all together
Mark Bowers, the regional pedestrian/bicycle coordinator for the NYSDOT Region is one of the founding members of the DPA alongside Peg Johnson, a board member at the Center for Art, Culture, and Gender, and Kady Perry (no…not Katy Perry), a graduate from Binghamton University. Bowers sees public art as integral to the make up of the community, and feels it’s important to get the public involved, stating “Far too often, people come and tell a neighborhood or tell somebody this is what you need and you don’t grow that up from the people who live in the neighborhood or in the area…one of things we’re trying to do now is engage more neighborhoods and more community people and find out how public art can help them.”
What the group has accomplished
Apart from the collaborative work of Mark Bowers and Kady Perry on the Binghamton greenways, and the workshops by Bruce Greig, there are a number of great, eye-catching projects which the DPA has engaged in, such as facilitating work on the flood wall on Water Street, working with the PWC scholars from Binghamton University, who together were able to donate money, pay the artists, and provide students to paint the flood wall to create a mural, and much more.
How do I know if I can get involved?
Well you can easily get involved even if you are only good at drawing stick figures. The DPA does not screen people in search of high end artists, but does evaluate their credentials in order to determine which projects the volunteers are best suited to partake in. Interestingly, in August of 2013, the DPA hosted workshops where Bruce Greig taught locals how to create their own airbrush murals helping to enhance their skills. By volunteering with the DPA, students interested in fine arts are given a wide-range of opportunities, from exploring and becoming involved in the Binghamton Community to making connections with successful artists and volunteers who are already involved in the DPA.
There are also several opportunities for students who do not have an artistic background to become involved. Students with a background in web design or graphic design can assist in building a website for the DPA while students who have a background in social media can help publicize and promote the group to increase engagement and spread the group’s ideas. Students can even help in marketing and promoting the artwork, itself. All in all there are a lot of ways to volunteer and help the DPA.
By volunteering, students can make an impact
“We’re a long way from integrating the University and its students and the community together. And I think art is a way we could help bridge some of those differences,” says Mark Bowers, “…the community should be your (students’) laboratory.” The DPA offers students the opportunity to get engaged with the community that is often far too distant from them, as well as help shrink the gap between the community and the University. The ideas students learn should be applied to the outside world, beyond the walls of the University, and becoming involved in the DPA is a ticket to putting those skills to practice.”
Link to the DPA’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/deptofpublicart