an ongoing archive of independent and collaborative work by Eric Leshinsky
This public art concept for three blocks of downtown Athens, GA, was recently selected through a competitive national RFP. The project is conceived as a means to enhance the soon-to-be renovated streetscape of Clayton Street from North Lumpkin to North Thomas Streets with an interactive and durable intervention, while respecting the street’s existing character and the needs of business owners, residents and visitors, channeling the creative cultural spirit of Athens, and working within a limited budget.
The work is designed to complement Clayton Street by providing a form that connects all blocks within the site through a simple thread of powder-coated galvanized metal pipe that bends in multiple ways, stops and starts, and creates functional shapes, as it moves along the sidewalk within a narrow area that avoids disrupting pedestrian traffic.
In conceptualizing the project, it appeared that current plans for the renovated streetscape lacked adequate site furnishings to make the street sufficiently useable by the public. In response, I reflected on what a 3-block long, 2200 linear foot, bike rack might look like. This was some of the original inspiration for the concept. But this direction quickly shifted to simply looking at the types of spaces that would seem suitable to accommodate public art along the new streetscape. Most of these spaces are “bump-outs” in the sidewalk that serve as bookends to the parking areas. I began to think about how to connect these “bump-outs”. The Clayton Connector emerged from these lines of thinking and ultimately the need to find an economy of form to activate 2200 linear feet of sidewalk within a limited budget.
Creek Speak was a site specific public art work commissioned for the City of Austin's Art in Public Places Tempo Progrm in 2016. The piece was installed on the Denson Drive bridge over the northern reach of Waller Creek for approximately 6 months.
A great video about the project, produced by the Art in Public Places Program and made by Magic Spoon productions, can be viewed here: Creek Speak Video
No Lifeguard on Duty
Collaboration with Colter Sonneville, Meghan Skornia, and Wenjie Zhao
No Lifeguard on Duty is a collaborative project three other designers commissioned for Creek Show 2017, an annual curated show of nighttime installations designed for specific sites along Waller Creek in downtown Austin. Here's the narrative provided with our winning submission for the open call:
The pleasures of swimming in Austin’s natural waterways and spring-fed pools have been a treasured pastime for generations. No lifeguard on duty celebrates this cultural phenomenon and amplifies it as a public spectacle along Austin’s most visible waterway for the 2017 Creek Show.
Comprised of an assemblage of common and iconic poolside furnishings treated with an industrial DayGlo powdercoated finish, a set of strategically mounted LED flood lights projecting black light, and a neon sign both proclaiming and cautioning visitors of No lifeguard on duty, the project is intended to be a visual tableau as well as highly interactive. When activated by the black light, the installation’s DayGlo finish will offer a glowing and vibrant environment that will serve as a both a functional rest area as well as an intensely visual experience.
The project is sited at the north end of the Creek Show program area, just north of the 8th Street bridge, and situated around a unique ‘tide pool’ condition along the creek where a crumbling weir structure has formed the only area of pooling water along this stretch of the creek. Conceived as a way of activating and enhancing this unique site, the project makes use of the weir, the paving edge, and the creek itself as key elements of the installation. Visitors will be able to appreciate the work from above with views from the bridge or along the creek where it will offer an immersive experience. Visitors approaching the work from the south will be drawn to the colorful glow of the installation just beyond the darkness of the bridge underpass.
Shrimp Boat Projects was a regional cultural and ecological initiative for Houston, Texas, that aimed to reorient the city’s relationship to Galveston Bay, the defining natural resource of the region. Launched initially through a year-long artist residency at the University of Houston Mitchell Center for the Arts, the project incorporated university-level teaching and curriculum development through the Interdisciplinary Arts Program at the University of Houston, public events with other local organizations such as the Rothko Chapel and Aurora Picture Show, the operating of a fully-restored commercial shrimp boat, active participation in the local seafood economy, and various forms of cultural production, all in an effort to help the broader public to better visualize how the city continues to shape and be shaped by its native ecology in ways that are often unacknowledged or unseen by the larger population. In 2012 the project received a visual arts award from the Creative Capital Foundation.
Collaboration with a few hundred residents of Wilmington, DE and the staff of the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art
Peoples Park was initiated through the Community Artist-in-Residence program at the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art, and became an effort to develop a plan for a new public space for downtown Wilmington, DE, from the everyday insights and ideas of Wilmington residents. Central to this effort was the Peoples Park Design Studio, an evolving public work space I designed and installed within the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts where the design process for Peoples Park took shape over a one full month during the museum’s exhibition imPERFECT CITY. In addition to leading public workshops in the museum, I designed a set of public outreach materials-- flyers, banners and surveys-- to help generate participation in the project. Through the design process several hundred residents and visitors of Wilmington, DE, were surveyed on their perceptions of downtown Wilmington, parks and public space in general and how to best use a previously vacant lot on Market Street, a primary artery through downtown Wilmington. The park is structured around a 100ft. long text-based mural that I designed from the diverse comments provided by project participants during the design process. The mural serves as both a guide to using the park as well as a means of framing the space.
Born to be Wild?
Collaboration with Jenny Janis
Born to be Wild?was a temporary installation for Artscape 2010, Baltimore’s annual free public arts festival, and commissioned by Marian Glebes, curator. Inspired by the urban ecology research of Harvard professor and research scientist Peter Del Tredici, the project was an experiment in domesticating common urban weeds, or ‘wild urban plants’ as Prof. Tredici prefers. The project aimed to recontextualize these plants which thrive with little maintenance at the margins of Baltimore’s urban landscape-- yet typically the villans of most cities-- in a way that would allow them to be perceived in a more positively, as potential urban ecological assets. After a two month period of creating a wild urban plant nursery to determine which common plants would survive best when taken out of their typical habitat, the project incorporated the plants into a familiar residential living room environment where festival-goers could relax, beat the heat, and feel at home.
Collaboration with Fred Scharmen and Ryan Patterson
Evergreen Commons was commissioned by the Evergreen Museum and Library in Baltimore as part of the Sculpture at Evergreen Biennial 6. Sited in close proximity to and direct dialogue with an existing historic walled garden on the grounds of the Evergreen estate, Evergreen Commons was a new public space within a privately-owned public institution. The project situated a scaled-down re-creation of a conventional Baltimore urban playground in a context where very few of its familiar elements seem familiar or appropriate. Though designed with limited functionality as a common city park, the space instead serves as a lens through which to observe both the pristine grounds of the Evergreen Museum and in contrast, the city beyond.
Middle Branch Case Files
Collaboration with Fred Scharmen
Middle Branch Case Files was an urban investigation into Baltimore’s Middle Branch Basin, an area that exists both at the city’s fringe and at the confluence of various interlocking development plans that will shape the city’s future. The project included a gallery installation that featured a wall collage, reading room and archive of collected public documents, including urban plans, studies, maps and news clippings, as well a public bicycle tour, to make the histories of four park sites located around the Middle Branch Basin more visible. The work was included in the exhibition “Welcome to: ONE PARK” at Baltimore’s Current Space in conjunction with the Baltimore Festival of Maps and became the subject of a paper entitled Soft Sites, Four Case Studies on the Middle Branch presented at the 99th Conference of ACSA in 2010.
Backyard Organizer (B.O.)
Collaboration with Fred Scharmen and Ryan Patterson
Backyard Organizer (B.O.) was the initial proposal made for the Sculpture @ Evergreen Biennial in 2010. Safety concerns prevented the piece from further development which let to the subsequent proposal Evergreen Commons (viewable as a seperate project on this website)
Sited at the family estate of the founder of the B&O Railroad, this project aimed to transpose the important history of railroad right-of-ways to Baltimore on the site of the estate. Designed as a multi-functional object that could connect, divide, and activate program on the lawn of the estate, the Backyard Organizer aimed to overlay an organizing tool that would be both foreign and familiar to the former home of the Garret Family.
Words to Live By
Words to Live By uses words, and the meaning of these words, to engage and question the perceptions of an unnamed, unmapped alley in Baltimore. Alleys in Baltimore are both a defining element of the urban landscape and a marginalized element of the urban landscape. They are strategically located and functional, yet signify fear and are avoided by much of the city's population. The work was developed to participate in in this paradox, and advance a conversation about this paradox. The work was also developed as part of the site-specific exhibition Axis Alley, curated by Sarah Doherty, and included alongside other site-specific works along a nameless alley slated for redevelopment in Baltimore's Old Goucher neighborhood.
Fallsway was a site-specific installation included in a group exhibition of new works designed to activate a deteriorating museum in Baltimore, the Carroll House Museum. Reproductions of historical photographs from Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library, printed on vellum and applied to the windows of the Carroll House Museum, expose the concealed history of the Jones Falls stream, once viewable from the house’s windows. The installation included application of the vellum prints to six of the Museum's historic windows.
Nature & Nurture
Collaboration with Jenny Janis
Nature + Nurture was restorative landscape design charrette for a portion of the MD Anderson Cancer Center campus, and staged in conjunction with the 2015 People + Nature Conference in Houston, TX. Conceived as a way for conference participants to help guide the planning and development of a future campus area, the charrette was designed to serve as a multidisciplinary workshop where conference attendees of diverse backgrounds could share ideas toward a common goal. Participants explored a number of key questions including, ‘How can we better integrate the outdoor environmental experiences for patients, visitors and staff?’ ‘How can we design landscapes to better address public health goals and complement the mission of healing and wellness at MD Anderson ?’ ‘How can landscape infrastructure be utilized in campus green space?’ ‘How can we help to re-establish, restore or enhance native ecologies that once defined the area?’ Staff from MD Anderson are now working in integrate ideas from the charrette into ongoing campus planning.
Collaboration with Ryan Patterson
Humane Metropolis Exhibition was a collaboration with Ryan Patterson of Baltimore’s Parks & People Foundation to curate, design and fabricate an exhibition that was integral to the 2009 Humane Metropolis Conference held at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore. Organized jointly by the Ecological Cities Project, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and the Parks & People Foundation, the conference brought together approximately 200 individuals working in various capacties on urban sustainability issues. The exhibition reflected, both in design and content, the various themes of the conference sessions: “Baltimore and Its Region”, “Growing Food and Community”, “Urban Parks: New Uses and Users”, “Baltimore’s New Sustainabilty Plan”, “Reviving Urban Streams and Watersheds”, Urban Ecology: The Baltimore Ecosystem Study”.
Museum for Missing Places
Museum for Missing Places was a short-term experimental institution in Houston, Texas, designed around a series of site-specific tactical interventions that served as exhibits which both activated various unacknowledged public places in the city while studying them at the same time. Through the imposed public dialogues of its exhibits, the Museum challenged a variety of urban assumptions about public life in one of the most privatized cities in the United States. In its six month life, the Museum presented itself as a website, a series of site-specific public surveys and a temporary gallery exhibition. The website component of the project was re-launched in 2009 for inclusion in the exhibition “NO ZONING: Artists Engage Houston” at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston.