Designing in the Streets

The clock is ticking. March 27 is the Public Art Fund's latest deadline for emerging New York State artists to submit proposals to create a work in a public place.The Public Art Fund, a nonprofit group that organizes art projects around New York City, has made such requests twice before. Its three-year-old project, "In the Public Realm," is geared specifically to giving new names a chance to create public art.

Here's how it works: The Public Art Fund sends a request for proposals to about 6,000 people in the New York art world. Tom Eccles, the fund's director, says at least 500 applicants respond. A panel of artists, critics and other arts professionals select seven artists, whom they ask to develop formal proposals. The selected artists each receive a proposal fee of $1,000.

Each of these artists picks a potential site, develops drawings, prepares a maquette and presents a budget. Then the Public Art Fund selects three proposals. Each winner receives a fee of $2,500 and a budget of $5,000 toward the work's fabrication and installation. The selected projects are exhibited on their sites the following year.

This year, the art fund is also choosing a sculptor from the applicants, for an award from the Greenwall Foundation, which supports emerging artists in a variety of disciplines. The sculptor will be given the foundation's 1998 Oscar M. Ruebhausen Commission, a $15,000 award to create a work for a public location in New York City.

This is the first time the Public Art Fund has collaborated with the foundation on this project.

"What's great about the project is that the artists become the motor of change," Eccles said, "something that hasn't happened before."

The fund's most recent example of a fully realized project from "In the Public Realm" can be seen at the intersection of 9th Avenue and 22nd Street in Chelsea.

There, Kirsten Mosher, a Manhattan installation artist, has created "Ball Park Traffic," a baseball diamond that features an official home plate embedded in the sidewalk, a pitcher's mound in the form of a big circle of white paint and a backstop made by inverting the corner fence of the neighboring Chelsea Gardens. The work is on view until March 15.