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Artists To Hash Out Ideas for Downtown Raleigh Plaza

Posted January 1, 2007

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— Public art in downtown Raleigh didn't make it very far in 2006. The city hopes 2007 will be different, and members of the community will meet this week to brainstorm new ideas for a city plaza.

Artist Jaume Plensa's plan for the plaza had lots of lights and lots of critics. City Manager Russell Allen said it wasn't the right fit, and the City Council agreed.

Art supporters said Raleigh wasn't willing to embrace an international idea, and a $2.5 million donation from Capitol Broadcasting Co. President and Chief Executive Jim Goodmon in support of Plensa's project was taken off the table.

Now, there's a new push for art in the plaza.

“We are very confident it will be an even better place than Mr. Plensa envisioned there. It will be a good place for sitting in the daytime, for parties at night, and it will be surrounded by a lot of active uses,” Assistant City Manager Dan Howe said.

City leaders are looking for homegrown art that expresses more of what Raleigh is about.

“It’s pretty exciting that the city is considering opening this up and talking about what could be some flexible ideas, what could be some interesting ideas. So, we just want to help facilitate the public and see what kind of neat ideas can come out,” said Aly Khalifa, owner of Designbox.

Members of the creative community will hold a workshop Thursday night to talk through traditional, artistic and pragmatic design concepts.

Khalifa said they hope to get crazy ideas to inspire the process. Community members will play out scenarios that could include vertical surfaces and interactive sound.

“I think we have more talent than we think we do," she said. "So, by making a blank canvas and saying, 'Come help us think about it,' we can actually learn something about it.”

A previous creative conference organized by Khalifa, called SparkCon, brought many ideas to the table that caught Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker’s attention.

The city is also relying on outside help. An urban planner from Project for Public Spaces, a New York nonprofit that specializes in public space, already has been consulted.

“He talked a lot about each space has to have multiple functions," Howe said. "You have to have places for people to sit and be alone, (and) you have to have places to pull chairs together and talk where they can eat lunch, have music. All of these venues have to be designed into the plaza.”

The design project will be presented to the City Council next month.

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