PIONEER TOWER ICONIC PUBLIC ART PROJECT

 

Public art helps to define Fort Worth’s character as a vibrant and sustainable 21st Century city by celebrating its storied history, contributing to its iconic destinations, shaping its distinct neighborhoods, and honoring its close connection to nature.” – Fort Worth Public Art Master Plan Update

In October 2016, master plan consultants Barbara Goldstein and Jessica Cusick began engaging residents in a process to envision new goals and aspirations for the Fort Worth Public Art program.  They asked, “Where do people gather in Fort Worth?” as a means to determine the best locations for “destination quality, iconic public artworks from nationally and internationally-recognized artists”.  Will Rogers Memorial Center’s Pioneer Tower in the Cultural District was one of four locations recommended for iconic artworks in the master plan update, adopted by City Council in 2017.

By early 2018, the City of Fort Worth’s plans to rehabilitate the Pioneer Tower, built in 1936 and listed on the National Register of History Places, were underway.  This offered an excellent opportunity to begin work on the City’s first iconic public art project.  In April 2018, the Fort Worth Art Commission’s recommended approach to for the project was presented to City Council. Namely, projection mapping video artworks formatted to fit the unique architecture of Pioneer Tower by utilizing a 3D scan of the structure so that the artwork would wrap around the tower.

To serve as Project Planning Consultants, the City contracted with local artists and co-founders of Dallas Aurora (www.dallasaurora.com), Joshua King (JTK Studios) and Shane Pennington (SP Studio) to specify art infrastructure which was installed in conjunction with the rehabilitation of Pioneer Tower and is now in place.

In June 2018, JTK Studios LLC and SP Studio LLC were brought on board as Planning Consultants for the Pioneer Tower Iconic Public Art Project based on their decade long experience presenting visionary artists’ work to the North Texas  community free of charge at the AURORA Biennial.  

In 2010, artists Joshua King and Shane Pennington co-founded Aurora with Veletta Forsythe Lill and serve as its managing and creative directors.  To date, the biennial event has attracted more than 170,000 visitors, and has commissioned and presented over 300 local and international artists. Aurora has expanded over the years from a small public arts organization to a multifaceted institution with the ability to give back to artists and creatives in the region.  Beginning in November 2020 through 2021, Aurora is presenting a variety of free, remote and socially-distanced events in response to COVID-19.

For the Pioneer Tower Iconic Public Art Project, King and Pennington worked with the City of Fort Worth’s architectural consultant to specify art infrastructure, including electric and data connections on all four sides of the tower to support powerful video projection equipment.  In addition, they produced a 3D scan of the tower that the commissioned artists are using to format their projection mapping video artworks. In Spring 2019, they presented qualifications of new media curators and facilitated the selection of DooEun Choi, who later recommended artists Refik Anadol and Quayola for the project. King and Pennington are coordinating technical aspects with them as their artworks are being developed in preparation for projection on the facades of Pioneer Tower in 2021.

In November 2018, Council Member Dennis Shingleton appointed a Pioneer Tower Project Core Team composed of Cultural District and community stakeholders to provide input throughout the course of the project. In April 2019, King and Pennington guided the Core Team’s appointed Curatorial Committee through a process that led to the selection of New York-based new media curator DooEun Choi.

Pioneer Tower as a Four-sided “Canvas” for Projection Mapping Videos

DooEun Choi  is a curator and art consultant in New York and was formerly a visiting scholar at The School of Art, Media, and Technology at Parsons The New School. As a curator, Choi treats the space as a laboratory for experimenting with the types of experience and aesthetics that can emerge from combining and recombining scientific knowledge, artistic practices, and historical narratives.

After her selection as Curatorial Consultant in May 2019, DooEun Choi began work identifying highly-qualified new media artists for the Pioneer Tower Iconic Public Art Project.  In September 2019, she presented a pool of artists to the Pioneer Tower Project Core Team, which resulted in their recommendation of Refik Anadol and Quayola to the Fort Worth Art Commission.  She also participated in the Public Art in Fort Worth panel discussion, sponsored by KERA Art&Seek and moderated by Jerome Weeks at the Kimbell Art Museum where she discussed her approach to the Pioneer Tower project.

On September 26, 2019, DooEun Choi presented internationally renowned new media artists to the Pioneer Tower Project Core Team who recommended that both Quayola (Quayola.com) and Refik Anadol (RefikAnadol.com) be invited to prepare proposals for the project. The Art Commission concurred with that recommendation on October 7, 2019.

In January 2020, Ms. Choi arranged for she and artists Refik Anadol and Quayola to meet in Fort Worth to visit Pioneer Tower, visit various museums and other sites around Fort Worth, meet with potential institutional partners, and attend opening night of the Fort Worth Rodeo in the new Dickies Arena. By March, both artists were ready to present their proposals to the Fort Worth Art Commission; however, due to COVID-19 restrictions, their presentations were postponed to May 11, 2020 when the commission held its first remote meeting.  Ms. Choi introduced the artists after briefly discussing her curatorial process.

DooEun Choi is continuing to lend her broad expertise to the Pioneer Tower Iconic Public Art Project by assisting with various aspects of the artists’ productions and coordinating their technological requirements with the Planning Consultants.

At the Fort Worth Art Commission meeting of May 11, 2020, the artists remotely presented exciting proposals.  On June 23, 2020, City Council acted on the Art Commission’s recommendations by authorizing Artwork Commission Agreements with Quayola Studio Ltd and Refik Anadol Studio, LLC, for the Pioneer Tower Iconic Public Art Project.  The artists are currently gathering large data sets to developing their artworks which will employ complex computer algorithms and artificial intelligence to interpret Fort Worth’s natural beauty, rich diversity, and storied history.

Digital renderings courtesy of commissioned artists, provided by Refik Anadol Studio, LLC

Augmenting City of Fort Worth public art budgets with funds from other sources for iconic public art projects is recommended in the Fort Worth Public Art Master Plan Update.  The Arts Council of Fort Worth, which manages the Fort Worth Public Art program, has successfully secured grants totaling $235,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Texas Commission on the Arts for the Pioneer Tower Iconic Public Art Project.

The premiere of the works by Refik Anadol and Quayola will be the centerpiece for a free community event, which was originally scheduled for late Feburary 2021.  However, to ensure the health and safety of attendees, the event was rescheduled to debut August 20-21, 2021.

The projection test for the August 20-21 premiere took place on May 18 & 19, 2021

To celebrate the unveiling of these artworks, the Arts Council of Fort Worth and AURORA are partnering to organize a supporting exhibition, which will run throughout the duration of Anadol and Quayola’s presentations. Fort Worth-based creative entrepreneur, scholar, and curator Lauren Cross, Ph.D., will select works by North Texas artists who work with technology-based art.