TOP Public Art
Public art refers to the artistic and cultural productions intended to be installed and displayed in public spaces. The public art movement began in Sweden and the U.S. during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Its purpose was to provide jobs for artists who were having difficulties making a living. During the post-war era of the 1950’s, France enacted a law stipulating a one percent addition to the construction costs of all public buildings for the purchase and installment of works of art. In the 1960’s this policy, called “percent-for-art”, became a national as well as a local law, and eventually took root as a powerful cultural system in the U. S. Today, in China, Taiwan and Korea as well as the West all maintain public art policies, though the actual percentage set aside for artistic and cultural works differs from country to country.
We at the Japan Traffic Culture Association have been working to establish a public art movement here in Japan. We look forward to seeing stained glass, ceramic reliefs and sculptures in public spaces such as railway stations, airports, schools, hospitals, corporations, theaters, and every sort of municipal facility. We look forward to a society where works of art exist in the everyday public life, as if they are there as a matter of course. Public art plays a significant role in the public landscape. Herbert Read, british poet and critic, once commented “that it is not art, artists, or conscious art appreciators we lack, but a public that unconsciously appreciates what art can do”. Our association’s aim is contribute to and increase this kind of public.
In our association, we call our activities to promote environmental art, including public art, “Creare”. The word “Creare” means “creation” in Latin. We have been developing ceramic reliefs and stained glass with the conviction that they are the best materials for public art. Each work is based on an original painting by the artist, but the resulting work is not a copy or reproduction of the original, but a new translation, a new interpretation and a new value added, a different kind of art altogether. We would like to call this “Creare Art®”.
It has been our honor to have the cooperation of many noted artists who have provided original drawings from which our public art projects are created. Among these are many artists who work in traditional Japanese styles: Ikuo Hirayama, Hideo Nishiyama, Yuki Ogawa, and Fumiko Hori. Others are Gyoji Nomiyana whose style is Western, Koji Kinutani who does frescos in a modern style, the sculptor Takenobu Igarashi, and the president of Tokyo University of the Arts, Ryohei Miyata, who does metal work. And there are many others.
It seems only natural for artists of every genre to enjoy having their work on public display where everybody can see and appreciate it. Problems of designing for particular spaces and color choices that must take into account various lighting conditions are interesting challenges. And, the fact that the works created for a public space may remain there forever must be especially gratifying.
The first public work we facilitated was a large stained glass piece titled “The Creation”. It was crafted from an original drawing by the Western style painter, Ichiro Fukuzawa and installed in 1972. You can see it on the front wall landing of the big stairway leading from JR Tokyo station’s main concourse. From that time we have continued to install public art throughout the country from Hokkaido down to Ishigaki Island in Okinawa.
By 2014 we had installed our 500th piece. It was a ceramic relief from an original drawing by Fumiko Hori, the traditional Japanese painter. It’s called “Utopia” and can be seen in the Fukushima airport. A year later we installed our 508th piece in the Sendai airport. It is a huge ceramic relief with a suitably long title “Kinka Doji (a child of the Kinkazan Island, a local hallowed ground) Riding the Turbulent Waves Accompanied by Fujin (a wind god) and Rajin (a god of thunder)”. This time the original drawing was by the respected manga artist, Katsuhiko Otomo, who also supervised the production process.
In 2000 a number of well-known Japanese intellectuals and artists-among them the master Japanese style painter, Ikuo Hirayama-gathered to discuss and put into shape a “Proposal Regarding the Promotion of Public Art.” It was submitted to Hajime Morita, then head of the Transportation Ministry. Our association’s role was to coordinate and compile the proposal which urged the government to promote and popularize public art and play a leading role in legalizing “1% for art” principle in public construction costs. We take every opportunity that presents itself to promote social interest in public art.
Among the ways the association supports public art is its connection with the Creare Atami Yugawara Studio, established in 1981. In a corner of the workshop research is being conducted on ceramic glazing, an essential step in creating ceramic reliefs. Today the workshop maintains about 6500 different glaze colors by means of glaze mixing and temperature control, enabling us to respond to any color requested by the artists and craftsmen working on the reliefs we install.