Meet Jerome Meadows, Public Artist for the Blue Ball Barn Garden
During the past 20 years, as founder and director of the MeadowLark Studio, Jerome Meadows has been involved in the design and creation of a number of outdoor, site-specific public art projects throughout the United States. He is currently commissioned to create outdoor art features at the historic Blue Ball Dairy Barn, and presented his ideas for the project at the November 2002 public workshop. What follows is a synopsis of his work, and how he approaches a project.
Clay Ball Study
with Whistle Hole
What sorts of things do you think about when given a new commission?
My manner of working is very hands on. There are many technical issues pertaining to materials, engineering, site preparation and installation to consider. Yet public art projects succeed or fail based on the original design, and design effectiveness stems from sensitivity to the history and physical characteristics of the site, as well as the "people logical" issues underlying the project. Pertinent questions are: Who is the audience? What is the physical environment? How will the work function and be maintained over the years?
How do you approach a new commission?
I view all creative endeavors as a new adventure, the challenge of which is to find an imaginative, user-sensitive design solution, coupled with materials that are durable and easily maintained. I firmly believe that "site specific" is far more effective than "off the shelf" when developing design solutions.
How do you work with the community in developing your designs?
Based on my own historical research, site analysis, and community input, I present my initial concepts to the community. Working together, we adjust and refine the design as we go along. I believe that the integrity of the creative process should be allowed to flow continuously from conception through final finishing.
What is your philosophy of public art?
I believe that art exists as a provocative link between our factual understanding and our fanciful interpretations. Art transports us from the comparatively limited domain of what "is" into an ever-expanding realm of "what ifs". It is the function of public art to answer these questions within the context of our individual and communal lives.
What are the challenges of public art?
Public art must establish a basis of shared interests and common ground in the face of shifting diversity and priorities, defend creativity while remaining mindful of public accountability, and promote a shared experience capable of informing, inspiring and elevating us all.
What particular challenges have you faced in developing the public art program for the Blue Ball Dairy Barn?
The primary logistical landscape issues associated with this project have been maintaining a clean line of sight between the garden area and the Barn, and creating a sight and sound screen beyond this area with respect to the flow of traffic associated with Route 202. Philosophically, I have tried to develop ways for the public to realize the changes the last 100 years have brought to this area and society as a whole.
Placement of Sculpture
What design solutions are proposed for the Blue Ball Dairy Barn?
The Blue Ball Dairy Barn public art program consists of three features. The primary feature is a 10' - 12' high vertical sculpture incorporating a sphere reminiscent of the original Blue Ball. Additional features include several handmade ceramic tiles set into the walkway leading to the sculpture from the Barn; the imagery in these pieces will reflect the ecology, history and cultural heritage of the area. And finally, stones from the dismantled wall of the Dairy Barn will be designed into a rock garden. When combined with the historic exhibits within the Dairy Barn, I hope that these three features will combine to create a place for reflection, possibly on the nature of change and the role of history.
You have won many awards over the years, including a Fulbright Scholarship, and your work is exhibited all over the country. Do you have a favorite work?
My work covers such a wide range of styles and materials that it's hard to answer that question. Actually, for me the most exciting work is the one currently making its way into existence. It is the creative process that I most thoroughly enjoy. And so, it is with great joy and enthusiasm that I look forward to beginning fabrication on the artwork for the Blue Ball project.