The Overland Art Program – An Interview with Garrett Jones, Art Program Curator

Launched in 2015 to celebrate and steward art within our community, the Overland Art Program seeks to promote both established and emerging artists, inspire the design process, and encourage creative thinking. As part of this program, Overland hosts a series of rotating art exhibits throughout the year.

How does fine art fit into the Overland’s practice?

Garrett Jones: Incorporating fine art into our work is something we’ve already been doing for a long time.  It’s just never been corralled into a movement or program. We talk about uncovering the embedded potential of our projects, and we saw this as an opportunity to do so within ourselves. It was just about defining the effort and giving it a name.

Jeffrey Dell Reception

Jeffrey Dell Reception

How would you define the program’s scope and purpose?

GJ:  We’re actively engaged with fine art on multiple levels: first, at a local and community scale, staging exhibits in our office. Our interest is in promoting amazing people that we love in our city. Developing their showmanship ultimately helps to develop ours.

How does that contribute to the art-in-architecture connection?

Exhibiting in our office provides an opportunity for us to experience art, discuss it, stage lectures and receptions, and expand our working knowledge of a wide variety of artists and their work. That’s all knowledge that can be called upon when a project has an opportunity for art. It’s sort of the big win-win-win circle. Incorporating art into our design process makes our projects stronger and healthier. The spaces we create can be catered to the artwork we are installing and the users connect to the artwork they interact with on a deeper level.

Art Glass by Laurel Porcari, Grande Cheese Home Office lobby

Art Glass by Laurel Porcari, Grande Cheese Home Office lobby

And the large scale artists’ built projects…?

GJ: Yes…the third level of engagement is fully realizing spatially scaled architectural artworks with world-renowned artists. The Skyspaces of James Turrell and Ellsworth Kelly’s forthcoming Austin are good examples of this engagement.

The Color Inside, James Turrell Skyspace, Austin, Texas Photo: Florian Holzherr/courtesy of Landmarks, the public art program of The University of Texas at Austin

The Color Inside, James Turrell Skyspace, Austin, Texas
Photo: Florian Holzherr/courtesy of Landmarks, the public art program of The University of Texas at Austin

So it’s happening at all these ranges. It’s not just hanging art on our walls; it’s getting fine art integrated into our projects and design process, promoting artists that we admire, and collaborating with fantastic artists across the country in developing their work.

How do you curate the work you exhibit in Overland’s office space?

The curation process always starts with a discussion with the artist: what their interests are, where they are in their development as an artist. We’ve worked with artists interested in showing retrospective work, we’ve worked with artists that are really interested in showing only their new stuff. We know our space, we know what’s going to sing in our space, what’s going to catch eyes– clients eyes, our eyes. It’s a back and forth collaboration with the artist.

Can we briefly talk about how we choose the artists we work with?

GJ: We aren’t targeting specific types of artists or artwork. We want it to be a very diverse group. We’re excited about work that challenges all of us. We often say, it’s if everyone loves it, it’s not art; we’re not trying to appeal to everyone in the office. We want it to be challenging and engaging. From screen print to photography to abstract expressionism, to bold pop art… there’s no consistent vein. We’re looking for work that fits really well in our space, that we think our clients could get excited about, and is uplifting in some ways – especially because we live with and in it for the duration of each exhibit.

We not only want to show fantastic work, but we want to promote PEOPLE we love, who are genuinely shared-purpose, shared-value people. So far, almost everyone we’ve shown has been someone we’ve had a relationship with in some capacity. Jeffrey Dell was unique in that we didn’t have any relationship, we just saw his work, reached out to him, found out he’s an amazing human being, and said, “We want to promote the heck out of you!” So, some part of it has been us forging new relationships with artist, and some part of it has been exploiting relationships we already have with artists we’ve worked with in the past or just generally admire.

I think that’s the story of Overland. It’s about relationships.

You spoke a little bit to how the Art Program has contributed to our culture. How do you think it’s contributed to our work, or are they one in the same?

GJ: I think Overland empowers us to bring our passions to our projects. Empowered architects  = powerful architecture. When we have the opportunity to blend our passions (sustainability, art, mathematics, history, psychology, etc) with our work, the work gets better – every time.

What have you learned as you’ve piloted this process?

GJ: We are not a gallery, and we are not pretending to be. I think we have something else to offer, and our office exhibitions are a new platform for collaboration with artists and promotion of the fine arts.  That said, everything from hanging artwork to insurance coverage to cold calling artists we admire was new to us, and involved a steep learning curve. We are learning how to leverage our skillsets and our relationships with artists and clients to better serve our projects and community.

In-House Lecture by Jan Tips Rowe

In-House Lecture by Jan Tips Rowe

Follow future updates on Overland’s Art Program on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Join us for a day of art with Rex Hausmann Thursday, February 2, 2017.

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