Making public art is a creative endeavor; installing public art is physical labor. Brian Dowling is a man who knows how to do both.
Public art doesn’t just appear out of the ground. After the artist has executed his or her vision, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Installing a large sculpture in a public place requires good, old-fashioned manual labor and a fair amount of technical know-how. That’s where Brian Dowling comes in. After helping us with a few projects, he officially joins the team as the new 3-D Program Manager. He’s got big plans for that program, and a lot of tools to get them done.
What will you be doing in this new 3-D Program Manager position?
My role is new and it isn’t. Up until this point, [Executive Director] Yarrow Thorne has been singlehandedly running the 3-D Program (and also the 2-D Program and all the other Avenue Concept endeavors). I have some very specific charges: standardizing our installation methods, establishing protocols that meet industry standards, as well as getting to participate in the overall vision of The Avenue Concept. Broadening and strengthening what already exists in the 3-D Program is a goal for me. Finding ways to streamline processes internally will enable us to do more.
What are some of the first projects you’ll be working on?
I am preparing for a wave of sculptures to be installed throughout Providence in the very near future. There is a lot of infrastructure work to take care of before the installs and we’re putting the work up in a short period of time. We’re doing something a little different with our sculpture bases this year as well.
As soon as the sculptures are installed, I’ll be facilitating our 3-D Resident Local Artists with their project this summer. I’ll also be preparing for a major installation in the early fall. When the dust settles from that, I will be looking to our studio space and streamlining that so it can be used in a multitude of ways.
The actual, physical work of installing public art requires you to be somewhat of a jack-of-all-trades. What kind of background prepared you for this role?
I have worked for many years doing art installation and fabrication for a variety of professional artists. I’ve built large-scale sculptures that I have installed throughout the country. I also worked for several years in the nonprofit world as the Associate Director at the Steel Yard. I began as the Studio Manager, establishing cohesion in the overall philosophy of the studio and formalizing safety protocols. My responsibilities expanded to donor relations, staff management and input in strategic and master planning.
How did you wind up with The Avenue Concept?
My involvement began in 2016 as a hired hand assisting in the installation of one of the sculptures, Lotus, by the artist JaeHyo Lee. Later, I assisted in the removal of it. I also built the sculpture that was installed in its place, Cosmic Flower, by Brower Hatcher at Mid-Ocean Studio. I was involved in the installation as well as a mid-winter treatment adding more reflective embedded elements. Through both experiences, I was impressed with the professionalism and the attention given to the artist and their people by The Avenue Concept. I learned that if you work with The Avenue Concept, you can expect an exceptional delivery.
I was hired again to assist with an installation of Peruko Ccopacatty’s figures in Kennedy Plaza. That was really when Yarrow and I discussed the possibility of my getting involved with the Avenue Concept in a more formalized way.
You’re also an artist, right?
I am. My personal work has been primarily in stone carving. I enjoy the slowness – many small steps that get you to the final piece. By far my favorite material to work with is marble. I also do a fair amount of abstract drawings in ink. I enjoy exploring materials and what their properties are.
Most recently I’ve been making molds for iron casting and I picked up this hobby of making rings out of coins.
What’s your vision for the 3-D Program?
I have some big ideas for the long-term. I’ll keep that close to the cuff for now and focus on getting through my first season, but I will say that I think The Avenue Concept is on an upward trajectory and we have only seen the beginning of what is possible.