What’s the best way to address important community issues in a manner that brings people together? Matthew Mazzotta would recommend public art.
“All the work I’m involved in is literally trying to get to the people where we’re all connected, regardless of status or socioeconomic background,” said the Upstate New York-based artist. “Public art has worked for me in bringing people together and to think about how we can all live together and face the issues we have as a community.”
On Wednesday, Oct. 4, Mazzotta will bring that message as the keynote speaker for the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod’s Creative Exchange Conference at the Cotuit Center for the Arts. Tickets for the conference, which is open to artists, arts leaders, individuals working for arts and culture nonprofits, and anyone interested in learning how they can partner with the arts sector, are available at www.artsfoundation.org.
The event will feature live performance, networking opportunities, and professional and personal development panels focused on a variety of topics that include how to create and implement an effective strategic plan; the importance of storytelling; how artists can build equitable and empathetic communities; and ways artists can use rejection to inform and improve their work.
The conference will kick off with a fireside chat between Arts Foundation Executive Director Julie Wake and Mass Cultural Council Executive Director Michael J. Bobbitt, the highest-ranking cultural official in state government. Their conversation will be followed by a performance from the Wampanoag Nation Singers & Dancers before Mazzotta gives his keynote speech.
“We’re excited to have Matthew bring his expertise to the Creative Exchange and show how towns on Cape Cod can think strategically about how they employ future public art projects to increase access to art, make our communities more welcoming, and enact positive change in addressing local issues,” said Wake. “Matthew has such a unique approach to the process which we hope will inspire community leaders to find ways that public art can enhance our communities for year-round residents and visitors.”
Mazzotta’s work sits at the intersection of art, activism, and urbanism, using the power of the built environment to shape people’s relationships and experiences. He designs community-specific public projects which integrate new forms of civic participation and social engagement into the built environment.
Mazzotta, who recently completed projects in Wichita, Kansas, and Ankeny, Iowa, starts the creative process by listening, through an innovative “outdoor living room” in which he sets up couches, chairs, and furniture in a public setting where anyone can stop by, sit down, and share their thoughts. It’s designed to attract people who may otherwise not attend a public meeting.
“Instead of a formalized meeting, this is the opposite. We make it a spectacle,” he said. “We want people to interact and feel comfortable to say whatever they want.”
The first outdoor living room he held professionally was over a decade ago in York, Alabama, where that public input informed the creation of Open House, a project which was constructed on one of the city’s blighted properties. The piece is a red house with a yellow door that unfolds into a 100-seat outdoor open-air theater.
“My premise is to make a spectacle so people are drawn in by their curiosity so they drop their baggage and enter into this space,” Mazzotta said. “By having those experiences with these spaces, they ripple into people’s dining room talks, talks at town meetings, and talks at work. This is literally trying to disarm people and rip open our social fabric so we’re all on the same platform.”
Mazzotta’s work has been named Architecture Project of the Year from the Dezeen Awards and have received a slew of international art and architecture honors, including Architizer’s A+ Award, Azure’s AZ Award, and The Congress for the New Urbanism’s Charter Award. Six of his projects have been recognized by the Americans For the Arts.
The Creative Exchange Conference is made possible through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding through the state of Massachusetts as well as support from the Cape Cod Foundation, William Raveis Real Estate, Cape Cod 5, South Shore Playhouse Associates, the Kelley Foundation, the Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod, BankFive, and the Woods Hole Foundation.
Businesses interested in sponsoring this year’s conference can contact AFCC Director of Development Amy Tuttle at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-362-0066, ext. 112.