TANK: Public Art (a.k.a. The TANK) is a collaborative public arts group aimed at keeping public art in the community’s consciousness as a necessary and essential facet of culture in Joplin, MO. After populating Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center with wildlife sculptures earlier this year, they have struck again, this time in downtown Joplin on the side of Spiva Center for the Arts at 3rd and Wall. Following is an interview of Taylor Kubicek, artist member of TANK by Josie Mai, Spiva Board’s Vice President.
Can you tell one story about the process of making the mural, perhaps an obstacle you all overcame or a funny or surprising moment you didn’t expect?
Making the mural on the Spiva building was an interesting process. On paper it seemed like a fairly simple task and overall that was true if you omit the math aspect. We didn’t project that mural but instead drew all the lines out with straight edges and tape measures. The horizontal lines are a different width than the vertical lines. Finding this magic number left all of us artistic folk scratching the right side of our heads. I’m pretty sure a group of high school or maybe even junior high students were employed to find the dimensions that would work with the existing space. That is kind of embarrassing but is what community art is really all about!
How did you hear about The TANK and get involved in their work?
I first heard of the Tank through my good friend Shaun Conroy. He invited me about a year ago. My first project with them was the chicken wire sculptures now installed at Wildcat Glades.
What do you gain personally from creating art with a group? How does public art fit with your growth as an artist?
I feel that creating art in a group environment compared to making art by myself is easier in some ways and harder in others. It is easier in the sense that you can rely on others to help problem solve and overcome logistics obstacles. It’s harder yet healthy to have to compromise. This translates to my personal work in that I am better able to question my own ideas.
Public art is a great way to build confidence as an artist. It requires me as an artist to put my creations in front of the world and that can be a hard thing to do. It also keeps me civic minded and tied to the world outside. All of these things again are easier to accomplish when done in a supportive group setting.
What is the importance of public art in general, and even more specifically for Joplin?
In regard to Joplin and its culture, I feel, public art must expand and evolve. Joplin is still recovering from the tornado and that needs to happen but, resilience should also be discussed and defined. Is it enough for Joplin to simply rebuild or should we also focus on cultural growth? Let’s face it; the tendency has been for Joplin to bleed out all of its culture. I think it will be a fine day when people start coming to this town for its appreciation of the arts. Despite the attitudes of some, I believe that everyone is an art appreciator. It connects us across all boundaries whether they are religious, political, or financial.
Any further thoughts, Taylor?
While there are plenty of murals in Joplin, our series of optical geometric murals bring something distinct to the area. Non-representational murals do more for the viewer than just portray an image; they allow the viewer to inject meaning. My hope for these murals is that they encourage others to take part in the creative process. Creating is one of the things people do best. We should celebrate that.