September 23, 2020

Meet Daniel Funkhouser: Preparator

What do you do as a preparator?

Preparators are art handlers working behind the scenes to prepare exhibits for museums. I do a lot of traditional preparator work like helping design and install exhibitions in our public library galleries, but I also hang artworks from our permanent collection in city offices, help maintain our public sculptures (like cleaning graffiti), and install Canal Convergence. 

What does public art mean to you?

Public art is such a different process from traditional gallery work. You propose something and get it approved by several different constituents to, ideally, integrate it seamlessly wherever it’s going. The payoff is that an artist can meet their audience out where they live their daily lives. In this way, public art works best when it’s embraced by the community. I really enjoy seeing people come take photos with our Robert Indiana LOVE sculpture, as an example. It often takes a while for a public artwork to be fully embraced, but when it happens, it’s magic.

Daniel Funkhouser, in the forklift, assists in the installation of Traceries by Mary Bates Neubauer at the Scottsdale Waterfront. Photo: Scottsdale Arts.

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

Back in 2009 I interned for an artist creating a large piece commissioned by Scottsdale Public Art. I was eventually hired as an on-call exhibition assistant and worked my way up to the position I have today. There was a lot of learning on the job, but I found out I loved this kind of work and the people I work with. I feel very grateful to Scottsdale Public Art and, particularly, Wendy Raisanen, who’s been my boss and mentor for 10 years. 

What has been your favorite project to work on?

I really enjoyed every aspect of our library exhibitions Camp Dreamtree by Roy Wasson Valle and Bird Cloud Island by Koryn Woodward Wasson—they are a husband and wife team, and I couldn’t decide between the two. The exhibitions were so much fun to create, and the finished projects were incredible, immersive, and exactly my taste. The installs for these were long, with a lot of interesting problem-solving, and were fun throughout. I learned a lot from Roy and Koryn; their interests are extremely broad, and they’ve since become good friends!

What would your dream public art project for Scottsdale be?

I’d like to see a site where temporary artworks like we have at Canal Convergence are available to the public all year round. Even an indoor space—somewhere we could put on immersive, fun installations, similar to the summer shows we used to have at our Civic Center Library gallery. Long term, I’d love to see a giant light-based art (although, I must say they’re hard to maintain).

Daniel Funkhouser, left, assists in the installation of the temporary IN FLUX artwork #bluewing by Cherie Buck-Hutchison and Curtis Hutchison. Photo: Scottsdale Arts.

What advice would you have for artists to get involved in public art and for people who are interested in being involved on the coordination side?

To get started, I’d recommend seeking small projects to build your portfolio. Reach out to other public artists for internships or mentorships to learn the process, especially the administrative and logistical challenges that go on behind the scenes. There are temporary public art projects out there that have smaller budgets and allow emerging artists to foster some of these skills that don’t translate from a studio art background.

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

I’m an artist, and that takes up a lot of my time outside of this job (Instagram: @funkhouserfever). I do a lot of work with laser-cut materials and installation work that’s been influenced by my time at Scottsdale Public Art.

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