Author Archives: cmccle44

Byways to Equality

As Public Art Coordinator for the City of Urbana, IL, I managed the King Park Public Art Project, a project to create a public art piece to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a historically African-American neighborhood now undergoing significant change. The diverse panel included representatives from the City, the Urbana Park District, Urbana School District 116, several neighborhood groups and The Champaign County Arts Council. I facilitated the process of identifying goals, soliciting artists through an RFQ, artist selection, design approval, and fabrication. Challenges included a limited funding period and the abrupt withdrawal of the originally selected artist. In the end, the final public art piece, “Byways to Equality,” was completed and installed by Illinois artist Preston Jackson. The completed artwork represents the legacy of Dr. King, promotes the park as a local amenity, and creates an attraction for visitors.

Grand Bizarre

This work was presented as part of Grand Bizarre: SAIC MFA Thesis Exhibition at the SAIC Sullivan Galleries in Chicago, IL. The culmination of my graduate study, this work uses humble materials such as painted pasta to create markers of achievement and success, questioning the work and effort required to obtain them.

Murals on Glass

As Public Arts Coordinator for the City of Urbana, IL, I developed an innovative temporary program called Murals on Glass, which spotlights the work of local artists as large-scale vinyl decals on windows in downtown Urbana. Both beautifying the streetscape and providing a public art showcase for local artists working in a variety of media, this popular and cost-effective program is now in its second, expanded iteration, bringing positive attention to the local arts community and Downtown Urbana. I gave a brief presentation titled “Murals on Glass: Local Artists, Downtown Beautification, & Collaboration” about this successful program as a part of the 2014 Public Art and Placemaking Pre-Conference at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in Nashville.

City of Urbana Arts Grants Program

As Public Arts Coordinator for the City of Urbana, I administered the Urbana Arts Grants Program, which invest $50,000 annually in artists, arts organizations, schools, and festivals to create community-based projects accessible to all Urbana residents, such as arts-producing and presenting organizations, artists service organizations, community arts education programs and schools. In managing this program my responsibilities included: consulting with potential applicants, conducting the annual selection process to facilitate group decisions, providing proposal comments, monitoring project contracts, responding to grantee questions, concerns, and requests for modification; maintaining a grants database; reviewing final reports; and approving payment of grant funds. To get the word out about the program, provide education, and solicit more applications, I developed and presented informational grant workshops in collaboration with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Parkland College, and the Independent Media Center (a local community center). In addition, to further support artists and arts organizations in the area, I worked closely with Illinois’ state art agency, the Illinois Arts Council, to provide in-person and online professional development opportunities for artists. Finally, I was responsible for yearly program evaluation and assessment, combining feedback from applicants, grantees, reviewers, City Council members, Commission members, and the community to determine changes for the next year. I used surveys, site visits, and in-person meetings to generate yearly reports that I could then compare year-to-year to determine if the program was meeting Commission and City goals. In response to negative feedback about the grant application system, I launched a research process to identify a more efficient system that streamlined the application process for both applicants and reviewers, resulting in an increase in applications in the following years.

Recipients included programs like “Outta the Mouths of Babes,” a free youth program where kids become radio correspondents to comment on local arts and culture community events; “In Urbana, I…,” a project by artist Philip Hartigan in which he asked people in the community to complete this phrase on a white board as he took their photograph, culminating in a public installation at the Urbana Free Library and a book; and Urbana Land Arts, an art and design collective who created a public art installation called Allman’s Boneyard/Saline that transformed an unused automotive repair garage into a multimedia installation in homage to local waterways.

Urbana Land Arts’ “Allman’s Boneyard/Saline”

Boneyard Public Art Project

As Public Art Coordinator for the City of Urbana, IL, one permanent project I managed was the Boneyard Creek Beautification Project, transforming an urban waterway into a downtown amenity in Urbana. This project was the first to activate Urbana’s fairly new public art ordinance. As the design by Seattle artist Jack Mackie incorporated tile mosaics and pavers to educate the public about the local ecosystem of Champaign County, I leveraged a relationship with a local conservation foundation to provide $35,000 in additional funds, allowing for additional public art enhancements. I administered all stages of the public art process including conducting public meetings to determine project priorities, identifying an artist through a Request for Qualifications process, managing design development, and presenting the final design to the Urbana Public Arts Commission and Urbana City Council for approval. I also liaised between the artist, city staff, and contractors throughout the fabrication process.

After the After Party

After the After Party explores ideas of celebration and commemoration through found objects, sculpture, and installation. Using ephemeral party supplies such as leis and decorations, she draws on the tension between the anticipation of a celebratory event and its physical manifestation. Her work considers the elevation of these festive goods in contrast to the temporary nature of their materiality.

This work was shown at Roxaboxen Exhibitions from February 10-February 28, 2013 as a part of a two person show with Tom Costa. Roxaboxen Exhibitions, located at 2130 W 21st Street in Chicago, Illinois, is an artist run gallery and performance space located in the heart of Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. The space is dedicated to displaying the work of emerging artists and incubating creative collaboration. Learn more about Roxaboxen Exhibitions at

All photos by James Pepper Kelly.


“Every artist wants his work to be permanent. But what is? The Aswan Dam covered some of the greatest art in the world. Venice is sinking. Great books and pictures were lost in the Florence floods. In the meantime we still enjoy butterflies.”
— Romare Beardon

In Fleeting, curated by Christina McClelland, 14 artists based throughout the United States and abroad explore the idea of impermanence through a diverse array of media, artistic practices, and methods of working. The works displayed take the form of site-specific installation, performance, painting, photography, video, sculpture, and participatory work. Particularly examining impermanence in the context of nature and biological phenomena, as well as through non-traditional and non-archival materials, Fleeting addresses the temporary and ephemeral nature of art and its subjects. Fleeting was displayed from February 1-11, 2013 at Indi Go Gallery at 9 East University Avenue in Champaign, IL.

All photos by James Pepper Kelly.

Liene Bosque
Firat Erdim
Steven Frost
Kate Hampel & James Pepper Kelly
Joel Parsons
Nicole Pietrantoni
Patrick Reed
Matthew Schlagbaum
Nicole Seisler
Olivia Valentine
Urbana Land Arts
Allison Wade
Erin Washington
Sarah Beth Woods

PS You Are Here

As Public Arts Coordinator for Denver Arts and Venues, part of the City and County of Denver, I co-administered the development and application process with Create Denver of a new grant program called “P.S. You Are Here, “ a pilot creative placemaking and neighborhood revitalization program funding collaborative, community-driven projects in Denver’s public spaces. Working with an internal committee including representatives of Parks, the Office of Economic Development, Community Planning & Development, Public Works, Neighborhood Services, and the Mayor’s Office, I created a toolkit to guide potential applicants through the application and permitting process.

Learn more about the 2014 grantees and this program in its current form at Denver Arts and Venues.


Announcement of 2014 PS You Are Here Grantees with Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, August 2014.