“Charity Ball” is one of the many innovative nonprofit programs supported in part by Ideas That Matter, a grants initiative developed by Sappi Fine Paper exclusively for those in the design business. Knowing that designers are frequently asked to donate their services to create promotional campaigns (print and digital) for nonprofit causes, Sappi came up with a grant program to help defray production expenses for public awareness and fund-raising materrials. Since it was founded in 1999, Ideas That Matter has funded more than 500 programs for a total of more than $12 million worldwide for nonprofit programs that benefit communities, the environment, the planet, quality of life and human health. Charity Ball is just one of those programs. July 11th is the deadline for applying for a 2014 Ideas That Matter grant. Read how to apply by clicking on the Sappi Ideas That Matter link in the sponsor’s column at left.
The Bay Bridge, which connects San Francisco to Oakland and the East Bay, has always played second fiddle to the glamorous Golden Gate Bridge. Even though both spans are celebrating their 75th anniversary this year, the drab gray Bay Bridge never stirred the heart the way its flashy orange sister span has. The Golden Gate Bridge’s 75th birthday was commemorated with fireworks, a fancy new visitors’ center, and souvenir trinkets of all kind. On the other side of town, it was business as usual on the Bay Bridge, with some 270,000 vehicles crossing its span daily.
When motion pictures were first introduced in the late 19th century, people were enthralled by the fact that the images actually moved. It didn’t matter that there was no plot, no acting, no attempt to design the set. It was entertaining in itself, until it stopped being a novelty. In many ways, that has been the case when 3-D mapped projected light shows were introduced a few years back. Crowds oohed and aahed over the display of multi-colored lights on a building, the special effects of crumbling pillars and giant silhouettes of people strolling across the exterior walls. It was dazzling, magical. Now people have become blasé. Been there, seen that. The next generation of 3-D mapped projections needs to have a customized theme, a message, and an artistic sensibility.
That’s why we like the projected light show that San Francisco-based Obscura Digital made to mark the United Arab Emirates’s 40th anniversary as an independent nation. Projected onto the façade of the Sheikh Zahed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, the show was designed to suit the occasion, integrating historical themes and cultural motifs with the architectural elements of the mosque. Aladdin’s genie couldn’t have done it better, but in the case of Obscura, it required 44 projectors, totaling 840,000 lumens of brightness, to cover the 600×351 foot surface area of the mosque.
One of the UK’s largest works of public art, the Comedy Carpet, opened in October on the seaside promenade in front of the renowned Tower in Blackpool. Designed by artist Gordon Young in collaboration with Why Not Associates, the typographic landscape is made up of jokes, songs and catch phrases from more than 1,000 British comedians and writers. Commissioned by the Blackpool County Council to create a piece of installation art, Young determined that “Blackpool occupies a unique and important place in the social history of Britain. Comedy in all its guises is a big part of who and what we are…. Blackpool has been a magnetic chuckle point for the nation.” Young added that he also wanted to maintain the high craft standards of Blackpool’s historic architecture, including the famous Winter Gardens, library and Tower. “
The 2,200 square meter Comedy Carpet was five years in the making. Each piece (over 160,000 letters) was cut from solid granite or cobalt blue concrete, arranged into over 300 slabs and cast into a high-quality concrete so it wouldn’t fade. The Comedy Carpet has become an instant tourist attraction, with visitors walking across the promenade and reading the memorable words of legendary comedians.
One is reminded of the mysterious stone heads on Easter Island and the terracotta warriors unearthed in China, but the underwater sculptures unveiled at Mexico’s Cancun Marine Park last week are brand new. British artist Jason de Caires Taylor made 400 life-size statues, casts from molds of real people, from an 85-year-old nun to a three-year-old boy. Then the concrete figures were sunk in shallow water that could be seen by divers, snorkelers and from glass-bottom boats.
This summer it wasn’t hard to see elephants on the streets of London; they were everywhere. Created to support endangered Asian elephants, the public arts campaign placed 260 brightly painted fiberglass elephant sculptures all over the city to highlight the plight of Asian elephants, whose numbers have declined by nearly 90 percent over the past century. Each elephant was decorated by a well-known designer, artist or celebrity and then auctioned off, raising more than four million pounds for 20 conservation charities in the UK.
Placing manmade installation art in a national park seems counterintuitive since national parks were established to preserve and protect wildlife habitat. But the 1,491-acre Presidio is unlike any other national park. Set in San Francisco’s tony residential area, it overlooks the Golden Gate entrance into the Bay, the reason why it served as a military outpost for 219 years (successively under Spain, Mexico and U.S. rule) until Congress closed the army base in 1994 and made it into a national park. Today, the Presidio is a mix of forested hiking trails and historic buildings converted to other uses, including the Walt Disney Family Museum.
Its proximity to urban surroundings has also resulted in some interesting collaborations. In 2009, For-Site Foundation (a nonprofit dedicated to the presentation of art about place) in partnership with the Presidio Trust invited 25 designers, artists and architects worldwide to propose custom-designed habitat for the wildlife living in the park. From there, 11 concepts were chosen for a site-based art exhibition called “Presidio Habitats: For the Place, Of the Place.”