August 19, 2020

Meet Kevin Vaughan-Brubaker: Public Art Manager

What does public art mean to you?

Public art is any art in the public realm (not on private land). Public art can run the gamut of a sculpture, a performance, or something that exists in a virtual space. 

How did you get into the field of public art and what led you to this career?

My first brush with public art was as a creator. My poem, “Chinatown Dragon Prayer” was paired with a photograph and placed on buses in King County in Washington state in 1996. From there I went on to earn an MFA in creative writing from Arizona State University, where I was a research assistant for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The work I did for ASU CLAS led to a job running a research project at the Arizona Commission on the Arts. While working at the ACA, we were charged with creating a 9/11 memorial at the Arizona State Capitol. This memorial project became my first experience with public art as an arts administrator. After ACA, I parlayed my experience into a public art manager position with the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture. I left POAC to take a job with Derix Glasstudios in Germany where I gained a sense of the public art industry from the perspective of a fabricator. In 2012, I became a contractor for Scottsdale Public Art and was hired full-time in 2015. 

Nicole Olson dance performance from Canal Convergence 2019. Photo by Andrew Pielage.

What has been your favorite project to work on?

While I have managed some great permanent projects, I would say my favorite project has been Canal Convergence, Scottsdale Public Art’s annual festival of temporary art installations, performances, workshops, and more. Growing Canal Convergence from the ground up has been a rewarding experience and to see it achieve popularity locally and around the world has been exhilarating.

Tell us about your dream public art project for Scottsdale.

I would love to see a grand vision public art project that would create a walkable/ridable pedestrian corridor throughout the city. I envision pocket parks and shade corridors enhanced with stand-alone and integrated art that would connect popular areas of the city and allow access beyond motorized vehicles. Such a project could provide a cool (literally and figuratively) experience for residents and visitors alike. 

What advice would you have for people who want to get involved with public art?

My advice for artists is to attend coffee talks and workshops put on by public art programs. At those, identify art administrators to network with, and identify seasoned public artists to connect with. Pick those art administrator brains for tips and best practices. Tap the seasoned artists for lessons learned and listen for any other recommendations they may have. For those interested in the coordination side, I would suggest volunteering for a public art program. Whether you can find a temporary project or a permanent project to do volunteer work on, this will give you a sense of the work involved. 

What do you do in your free time or outside of work?

In my free time, I enjoy expressing my creativity in different ways. This takes the form of writing a poem or a short story, working on a song for my band, or working on tabletop game development. To relax, I like to play tabletop games, do outdoor activities ,especially hiking with my dog, or attend cultural offerings and sporting events. 

Please enjoy these tracks from my band, There is Danger:

“All My Friends” has taken on significant meaning for me during the self-isolation of the pandemic.

“Mirror Eyes” features a section where I read my original poetry

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