Mandy Vink has an eye for public art. Fresh off her work as public art project manager at Denver International Airport and public art coordinator for Denver Arts & Venues, she’s now taken a similar post with the Boulder Office of Arts + Culture. In the private realm, she served as gallery manager at Walker Fine Art; she also sits on the board of Denver Art Museum Contemporaries, and serves on the Denver Commission on Cultural Affairs Public Art Policy Committee and PlatteForum’s Artist Committee. Over the last ten years, she's also helped oversee public art projects in Chicago and Iowa City. As she starts her job building new public art programs in Boulder, we asked her to tackle the 100CC questionnaire. Here are her intriguing answers.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be and why?
Mandy Vink: Joanne Simpson. She was a leading NASA research scientist for clouds. Often scoffed at for being a woman in a man’s field and for focusing on something seemingly insignificant (at the time), she would regularly jump into single-engine planes, donning a football helmet to get tossed around inside storm clouds, all for the sake of scientific progress. Her tenacity and her contributions in localized cloud studies are honorable. And have you seen the cloud variety along the Front Range? We are so lucky to have such magnificent conditions. Now that I’m jumping into Boulder, I’m eager to find a way to partner with NOAA, NCAR and UCAR.
Who in the world is most interesting to you right now, and why?
There are two public/private commissioning agencies that keep challenging the notions of public art and its commissioning process: Situations in Bristol, U.K., and FOR-SITE Foundation in San Francisco. Situations has been embodying social practice and temporary installations to challenge a historically-static exhibition process. FOR-SITE deems necessary artistic perspective in natural and cultural locations to conjure new dialogue. Based in the Presidio (which includes Alcatraz), they’ve worked with a rich artist roster to redefine how visitors experience these destinations.
What’s one art trend you want to see die this year?
Colored, programmable LEDs posing as artwork. I’m abhorred when even a sushi order arrives with those awful things. The technology is great, and some artists have used it in an incredible manner, but just because something can glow with alternating colors doesn’t mean it is art.
What’s your day job?
To experiment and explore on a daily basis? Technically my formal title is Public Art Coordinator. I’ve always been a curious person, and I think it’s that curiosity that got me into public art. I haven't quite found other programs that collaborate with as many different city departments as public art. Once hindsight was available, I could really unearth the unlimited learning opportunities in this positions. For example, I’ve learned why you cannot wear yellow safety vests during rail work, the term “missing teeth,” the nesting and roosting habits of native birds, the history of Denver’s 14th Street (which includes M’lle Carolista the Tightrope Walker of 1861) and so many more arbitrary yet fascinating facts. (Learn more about M’lle Carolista online).
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
I recently had a visit to Steve Oliver’s ranch in Sonoma County. He embodies exactly what I would do: find a large, geographically-diverse parcel of land that artists are invited to get to know over the course of a year and then be gifted with unlimited resources and time to produce a concept in which the only criteria is that it needs to relate to the land. Coming from a commissioning perspective, I became so envious when he told a tale of getting an early project all wrong in the initial design and how he’s been feeding funds into it since.
From his perspective, it was lesson-learned, as he now gives artists the amount of time and resources they need to be successful. Although municipalities utilize very good practices for commissioning public art, we also work with set budgets and timelines, so the unlimited resource environment creates so much potential for artists to complete the projects of their wildest dreams. For example, Ann Hamilton’s “Tower” was a bountiful fourteen years in the works! Fourteen years of creative conversation and construction to see her concept be physically manifest, accurately. Incredible!
Denver (Colorado), love it or leave it? What keeps you here - or makes you want to leave?
Haha…this is a question I’ve posed to myself and challenged from time to time. I moved here on a whim in 2008, knowing one person. Immediately the Denver community and the city itself became so formative, so supportive. I cannot emphasize how impactful folks like Kendall Peterson and Bobbi Walker have been not only for myself but the larger creative community. However, in the summer of 2013, I took love it or leave it to heart and moved to Iowa. Within four months, I was back to Denver and have no intent of leaving this area any time soon.
What’s the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
I’ll join the ranks in acknowledging the need for rent control. In addition, cross-industry and cross-discipline collaboration. It’s definitely happening within the creative sector, and is something I regularly have access to as public art impacts all city departments. But I would love to see this type of collaboration occur between the arts and private development and private sectors.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Patrick Marold. I wouldn’t limit him to just my favorite Colorado Creative, but expand to one of my all-time favorites. Patrick’s work is so consistently elegant and definitive. He provides just the right entry point, just enough information, and just the right treatment to his material. In addition, he and Mathias Leppitsch were among the most fascinating and professional artists I’ve worked with — which is a tall order on a project the scale of “Shadow Array,” Patrick’s recent commission at Denver International Airport. Together, and with their additional install team, a seven-acre man-made valley became an engaging experience, viewed from multiple perspectives. Keep an eye out for his exhibit at Goodwin Fine Art this summer.
What’s on your agenda in the coming year?
In April, the Boulder Office of Arts + Culture will be launching Boulder’s Community Cultural Plan! This is exhilarating, as the plan includes reinventing and building a public art program for the city. I won’t spoil the surprise with too much detail, but we have nearly ten temporary commissions in the works with local, national and international artists, a new neighborhoods program, and an opportunity to create a community-focused public art program that focuses on Boulder’s creativity in the public realm. It’s going to be a year to keep an eye on what’s going on in Boulder’s art scene.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
The brilliance of Eric Corrigan and Paul Garcia. Both are undeniable creatives who have been making and contributing to Denver’s creative community for easily more than fifteen years, but one of their greatest ideas recently became a reality with the opening PonPon and Lane Meyer Projects at 2528 Walnut Street. The curatorial caliber of Lane Meyer Projects is an undeniable tour de force.
Keep up with happenings at the Boulder Office of Arts + Culture online.