Thesis Info

Thesis Title
Remediation by Inspiration: Artist-driven models for Environmental Cleanup
Jessica Fain
2nd Author
3rd Author
Master in City Planning
Number of Pages
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Thesis Supervisor
Brent D. Ryan
Supervisor e-mail
bdr AT
Other Supervisor(s)
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Languages Familiar to Author
URL where full thesis can be found
Environmental Remediation, Public Art, Urban Planning
Abstract: 200-500 words
While often seen as utilitarian and technical, environmental remediation efforts have significant cultural, social and physical impacts. Accordingly, they demand responses that utilize a multi-disciplinary approach to the cleanup. The twelve case studies explored in this thesis represent examples of artists taking on leadership roles in environmental remediation projects as part of their artistic practice. The cases represent a unique type of public practice operating at the margins of aesthetics, science and public engagement. An examination of the details of these cases and their categorization along broad themes reveals lessons on where such an approach can be most effective and how, through interdisciplinary efforts, the practice of artists, planners, engineers and designers can be expanded to address the complex layers of environmental remediation. I conclude with seven factors that must be considered if such a model is to gain traction, including, but not limited to: the capacity for leveraging diverse funding sources, the need to acknowledge the professional uniqueness of artists, and the importance of public sector support. These factors point to a set of policy suggestions to help promote areas and approaches for successful interdisciplinary environmental remediation projects in the future. The case studies are organized under four categories. “Artist-led remediation” cases include Spoils Pile Reclamation Park (Helen and Newton Harrison, 1976-1978), Twin Stupas (Angelo Ciotti, 1987-1996), Wheatfield—A Confrontation (Agnes Denes, 1982), Veden Taika (The Magic of Water) (Jackie Brookner, 2006-2009). “Post-facto artist engagement” cases include Byxbee Park (Peter Richards, Michael Oppenheimer, George Hargreaves, 1988-1992), North Waterfront Park Master Plan (Richard Haag, John Roberts, Agnes Denes, 1989-91), and Wingfield Pines (Allegheny Land Trust, Angelo Ciotti, 2001-2010). Cases where there is an “artist as activator” are New Haven Long Wharf Master Plan (Michael Singer, 1988-1990), Nine Mile Run Watershed Project (STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, 1997-2000), and Fundred/Operation Paydirt (Mel Chin, 2005-present). Lastly, the two “integrated models” explored are Vintondale AMD&ART Park (AMD&ART, 1994-2005) and West Palm Beach Waterfront (Michael Singer Studio, 2005-2010).