A Closer Look—’Close, Closer, Closest’—Interactive Public Art

. August 14, 2018.
Artist Randy Walker. (Photo by Julie Swanson.)
Artist Randy Walker. (Photo by Julie Swanson.)

After receiving submissions from artists all over the country, the Arts Commission has settled on a new installation by Minneapolis artist Randy Walker to be installed in Close Park (4298 Bellevue Rd., near Tremainsville) in the spring of 2019. Called Close, Closer, Closest, the piece will be comprised of colorful steel poles, each representing a household in the surrounding neighborhood. For many cities, public art is often relegated to city centers, but the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo (ACGT) is striving to make Toledo a city where public art is showcased in every district.

Art for everyone

Several years ago ACGT analyzed the distribution of public art by city council districts, and District 5 did not have any public works, according to Art in Public Spaces Coordinator Nathan Mattimoe.

“On a basic level, public art is for everyone in the city,” he said.

“We’re interested in expanding not only into neighborhoods surrounding downtown that have problems economically, but also into other neighborhoods in the city that don’t have a lot of public space available.”

Arts Commission's Close Park rendering.

Arts Commission’s Close Park rendering.

Close, Closer, Closest will be displayed in an area of Close Park to create an interactive space that encourages residents to spend time there. It is likely that children will be especially drawn to the colorful, multi-level poles in a space that both showcases art and encourages play.

“Each pole (in the installation) represents a surrounding home, personalized with color while the height of the pole represents somebody in the family,” Mattimoe said. Each family will be encouraged to submit a time capsule where they can include a message, possibly about “hope for the future or maybe what’s going on at that time,” he said. “I think Randy Walker really is working in a lot of layers, digging into the identity of that neighborhood in a personal way, which is a great approach.”

Another rendering.

Another rendering.

Neighborhood involvement

The Arts Commission will be reaching out to neighborhood residents to make sure everyone has the opportunity to be involved. Neighbors participated in the decision to go with Walker’s proposed piece and there has been positive feedback about the project. “We really want the neighborhood to have a voice and to share their opinions,” Mattimoe said.

Walker is an architect by trade, and Mattimoe described him as creating “very conceptual projects. He’s not only a wonderful choice as a finalist; he’s going to be fun to work with.” This project is part of a larger effort to include public input into the creation of public art works. Mattimoe said that “this idea of integrating work into a site involved in community engagement—this is the direction we’re interested in for Toledo.