Public Art and Slow Art Day in Orlando

[In this series, we interview hosts for Slow Art Day and get their thoughts on hosting, the art of looking, and the slow art community. Today we interview Terry Olson, host of Orlando Public Art Slow Art Day.]

Slow Art Day: Tell us about yourself, Terry.

Terry Olson: I’m the Director of Arts & Cultural Affairs for Orange County Florida – which includes Orlando and a dozen other municipalities, Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort, Sea World, etc.  I call myself an “arts instigator.”  I’m out at arts events all the time and oversee funding, public art and our Arts Learning for Life program.  I love bringing people together for new experiences and for building relationships.

Slow Art Day: Tell us a bit more about Orange County Arts & Cultural Affairs. It sounds like a government agency that’s doing a great job.

Terry Olson: Twelve years ago Orange County decided to take a pro-active approach to supporting arts and culture befitting our world class community.  Our office administers the County’s investment in the arts through several different review programs (general operating, cultural tourism, facilities).

Slow Art Day: And you seem to be quite passionate about public art. Public art does remove the intimidation that some people feel when entering a museum – something we are trying to counteract with Slow Art Day.

Terry Olson: Although my background was in the theatre, I have concentrated more on the visual arts and especially public art since we formed this office.  I love to be out in various communities and love to be delighted by some art or other aesthetic feature in a public space.  I have become the president of the Florida Association of Public Art Professionals.  I’ve always been a “populist” kind of guy, and Public Art is probably the easiest entry point for appreciation of art for many people.

Slow Art Day: How did you hear about Slow Art Day?

Terry Olson: One of the FAPAP Board members suggested that we all host a Slow Art Day related to public art in our city.

Slow Art Day: You have been promoting Slow Art Day to other public arts professionals. Why?

Terry Olson: I sent a notice to all the public arts professionals in our state because I think it would be very exciting if public art were being looked at this way all over the state.

Slow Art Day: Tell us about the design of your Slow Art Day event there in Orlando.

Terry Olson: There about 10 sculptures, murals, and media installations within a few blocks of the restaurant where our Slow Art Day will take place.  I can provide a map so that people can spend time that morning walking to any/all of those sculptures and taking time to really look at them.  I also have an exercise about “How to Look At Art” that is a series of 5 questions.  It is best to do that while the person is looking at the art, but it might be interesting to explore those questions after people have looked at the art and met at the restaurant, answering from memory.

Slow Art Day: That sounds like a great design. You have been really thoughtful about what people need – including a map.  Tell us in your “How to Look at Art” exercise – what are the five questions you are asking people to consider?

Terry Olson: First, just stand/sit quietly – and I mean without your mind whirring – and let the art make an emotional impression on you. What feeling do you have (not related to intellectual analysis or cognizant of content, but of the more subjective overall feeling)? Second, describe what it actually is – dimensions, materials, i.e. a 4’X4’ canvas with acrylic paint applied in big globs and bits of organic matter stuck into it. Third, now, finally, you can describe what it “depicts”. Even if it is abstract you can talk about what shapes you see and any associations that it brings to mind. Fourthly, describe how your eye moves about the space. Does the composition bring you around in a circle, or are there lines, triangles, divisions, etc. Lastly, how does this relate to you and what you are thinking about or what you are going through in life? Does it bring up a theme or idea that resonates with you or with which you disagree?

Slow Art Day: Anything else we should have asked about?

Terry Olson: We might see if there could be some pop-up performances around the city that morning to add extra surprise to any participants.

If you’re going to be in the Orlando area, join Terry in his exciting Slow Art Day event.