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Discrepancies between how different people have historically been allowed, or not allowed, to access systems of justice is an ongoing theme in Crean's creative practice
Discrepancies between how different people have historically been allowed, or not allowed, to access systems of justice is an ongoing theme in Crean's creative practice

Melanie Crean, Associate Professor of Art, Media, and Technology, Named 2021-2022 NYC Public Artist in Residence

Since 2015, when New York City launched the Public Artist in Residence Program (PAIR), various artists and creatives have been embedded throughout City government offices, where they’ve been asked to propose and implement creative solutions to pressing civic challenges.

Recently, Melanie Crean, Associate Professor of Art, Media, and Technology at Parsons, was named a 2021-2022 NYC Public Artist in Residence, and was placed with the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC). 

“My proposal related to how construction sites might be leveraged as sites of dialogue with affected communities,” Crean shared. “I am particularly interested in what narratives can be found written in the built environment, how buildings have the potential to amplify speech, and how these stories might be entered into the historical archive of the City.”

Throughout the Fall, Crean has been meeting with peers from DDC and agencies that sponsor infrastructure and public buildings throughout the City. “I’ve been incredibly impressed by how generous people have been, to devote time and energy to working with an artist on some kind of re-visioning project,” Crean noted about her work with city agencies. 

Researching “building topologies” that will be under construction during 2022, she looked at a large portfolio of public buildings projects, considering a “combination of the architecture, function, history and site, as well as the specific kind of work that will be done on the building, to consider the potential to create meaning.”

Crean has focused on several court houses which will soon go under construction across the City. Of particular interest is the Richmond County Supreme Court in Staten Island, a landmarked building built in 1919, whose grand staircase will be replaced due to issues of accessibility. Discrepancies between how different people have historically been allowed, or not allowed, to access systems of justice has been an ongoing theme in her creative practice, and much of Crean’s work with PAIR is informed by past projects she has spearheaded.

“In 2019-20 I worked with a group of women in New Haven, CT, to reimagine a set of murals in the County Court House there, so I remain very interested in architecture and systems of representation related to the courts,” she reflected. 

Crean views teaching as a relational art, and her work as a professor at Parsons has much in common with her creative process. Both are research and process based, beginning with workshops and dialog. In her classes, this culminates in students creating their own projects and furthering their own creative practice. Her own artistic process includes working and discussing issues with others, and then creating responsive art pieces. 

Next up for Crean will be a sabbatical in Spring ’22, which will allow her to focus primarily on the PAIR project, and also give her the opportunity to complete work on two other projects, “No Such Place as America” in Hartford, Connecticut, and “A Machine to Unmake You” in Liverpool, England.

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