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I’m Holding My Breath for this New Museum

Jason deCaires Taylor (via www.underwatersculpture.com)

Jason deCaires Taylor (via www.underwatersculpture.com)

Soon, Cancun may be noted for something more than Spring break underage drinkers. A national park in Cancun will soon feature sculptures of human figures situated in the seabed, with the first four “going down” this month. These are the beginning of what will eventually be hundreds of figures in “the worlds largest underwater museum.” From BBC News on November 19th,

According to the park’s director Jaime Gonzalez, one of the aims is to reduce the pressure on the natural habitat in other areas of the park by luring tourists away from existing coral reef, which has suffered damage from hurricanes and human activity.

One of the sculptures is La Jardinera de la Esperanza (The Gardener of Hope). It features a young girl lying on a garden patio, surrounded by potted plants. When it is installed four meters below the surface, the work will include propagated coral in the empty pots. This well-established reef conservation technique will rescue damaged coral fragments by providing a suitable new substrate. The base incorporates habitat spaces for other marine creatures such as moray eels, small fish and lobsters.

“It all happens rather quickly – within two weeks, we will see green algae,” says artist Jason deCaires Taylor, who is in charge of the project. “Then within a few months, juvenile algae will appear and the project will progress from there.”

La Jardinera (photo: Dr. Jessie Voights, www.wanderingeducators.com)

La Jardinera de la Esperanza (photo: Dr. Jessie Voights, www.wanderingeducators.com)

The BBC article also included this observation from Dr. Paul Jepson, a lecturer in conservation at the UK’s University of Oxford, who applauded the idea of the museum.

“Conservationists need to find different ways of engaging with the world. Artists should get involved in environmental matters so it is not just scientists trying to get the message out there,” he said.

And I wholeheartedly applaud that. In fact, that why I write about “Water and Art” and exactly why it matters.

Vicissitudes by Jason deCaires Taylor, Grenada, West Indies

Vicissitudes by Jason deCaires Taylor, Grenada, West Indies

Detail, Vicissitudes by Jason deCaires Taylor, Grenada, West Indies

Detail, Vicissitudes by Jason deCaires Taylor, Grenada, West Indies (via trendhunter.com)

Houston taxpayers get soaked?

When Houston’s Water Museum and Education Center opens in the Fall of 2009, visitors will be greeted with one splashy Texas-worthy monument to mandatory public arts funding.

This $500,000 “bathtub bouquet” (conceptual drawing shown here) will be installed at the outer traffic circle of the new WaterWorks facility and is designed with a hidden water recycling system (thank God for that). Not that it has to “represent” or “mean” anything, but I wonder what the artsy “talking points” will be about the work’s message… there’s plenty of water here, fill ‘er up and splash ‘er out! Whatever, I admit it…I really like it, there’s something irresistable about it.

 As reported on www.chron.com, the Houston Chronicle’s online site, 

Its title, Tubbs, is a pun and tribute to country-music legend Ernest Tubb. Its creator, Philadelphia-based Donald Lipski, is an art-world legend, with work in more than two dozen major museums and a hefty portfolio of public art commissions.

Funded by an ordinance that sets aside 1.75 percent of city capital-improvement project budgets for art, Tubbs is one of eight public commissions set for completion in 2009, say officials with the nonprofit agency charged with managing the city’s art collection.

“We want to have the country’s next great civic art program,” said Jonathon Glus, CEO of the Houston Arts Alliance. “Houston is poised for it.”

Lipski landed the Public Works and Engineering Department commission by answering an HAA open call for artists in June 2007. A five-member panel of department representatives, art professionals and stakeholders met twice — first to review submissions and select three finalists, then to interview the finalists, review their designs and select the artist.

Although the commission was originally budgeted for $350,000, public-works officials agreed to add $150,000 after “reviewing the scale and potential of the Water Museum commission.” That enabled HAA to negotiate a $500,000 contract with Lipski in June, according to HAA’s civic art capital report for fiscal 2008.