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Brush Square


Budget: $60,000
Activated: 02/01/2022
Deadline: 03/31/2022
Call Summary
The City of Austin Economic Development Department's Art in Public Places (AIPP) program seeks to commission works of art of redeeming quality that advance public understanding of visual art and enhance the aesthetic quality of public places. This can be accomplished through the selection of a qualified artist or artist team who can innovatively and thoughtfully design within the context of the Brush Square project. Brush Square is located at 409 E 5th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. Artists with an understanding of the history of the site and the culture of Austin’s urban downtown are encouraged to apply.
Budget Description
The City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department received authorization of a bond in 2018. This bond featured funding for phase I updates to Brush Square Downtown Park. The 2% for the AIPP project is generated from this 2018 bond and land acquisition funds. The total award for the artist contract is $60,000, inclusive of design, fabrication, and installation, including engineering fees, travel and shipping expenses, insurance, and all other project-related costs.
Project Description
Brush Square is located between 5th and 4th Streets and Neches and Trinity Streets. Over the years, the Square was used as a rail stop, a cotton yard, a repository for the O. Henry house (relocated from its nearby location in 1934) and the Susanna Dickinson house (relocated in 2003), a location for the City’s first Central Fire Station in 1938, and for many years, a fenced parking lot. Only in 1969, when the City of Austin made plans to convert much of the site into a permanent parking lot, did public opinion and advocacy insist that the park instead be reinvigorated as a public open space.

Brush Square is located at a busy downtown location serving residents, businesses, and visitors. Brush Square fronts the Austin Convention Center and the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (CapMetro)’s new Downtown Station, which is currently under construction. Through the Brush Square Vision Planning process, several design principles guided the layout of the park renovations. They include:
• Ensure that the first phase of improvements results in a high-quality open space befitting the historic stature of Brush Square.
• Improve the usability of the open space by reducing the impact of the existing parking lot.
• Improve circulation and visual access to the Square, improve security, and enhance the quality of the pedestrian experience with improved streetscapes and shade.
• Provide opportunities for informal, day-to-day uses while accommodating major civic celebrations.
• Protect existing trees and improve the ecological health, natural beauty, and environmental quality of the Square.
• Preserve and enhance the three existing museums and provide new, diverse programming opportunities in the park for all residents and visitors.

The Square, unfortunately, sees above-average criminal activity, primarily related to persons experiencing homelessness and substance use disorder crimes, and the park suffers from poor visibility, access, and sufficient lighting to make it an attractive space after dark. These limitations further encourage illicit behavior and the perception of a lack of personal safety. A recent security pilot at the Square has produced positive results in reducing criminal activity at the site.

Fortunately, there is renewed interest in creating vibrant public spaces as downtown Austin increases in residential population and with the increased capacity and efforts of the Downtown Austin Alliance. The Brush Square plan builds off these efforts and intends to guide the design of an exemplary public space at Brush Square.
Artwork Goals
The AIPP program seeks to commission works of art of redeeming quality that advance public understanding of visual art and enhance the aesthetic quality of public places. This can be accomplished through the selection of a qualified artist or artist team who can innovatively and thoughtfully design within the context of this project. To engage local voices, AIPP collaborated with the Parks Department, Downtown Austin Alliance, Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association to host two online engagement community meetings. The feedback was compiled into AIPP project goals, which were then finalized with community comment.

The resulting goals for the Brush Square AIPP Project are to select an artist/artist team who will design artwork that:
• Weaves together stories from a variety of nearby events including the pun-off, music festivals and tourist attractions;
• Engages with the unique history of the adjacent museums, the heritage of the site as a crossroad, and/or the nearby African American Business District;
• Integrates with the beauty and nature of the surrounding oak trees;
• Contributes to the depth and breadth of the City of Austin’s art collection; and
• Is accessible physically and conceptually by visitors of all ages to the park.
Artwork Location Description
The community has stated a preference for the artwork being inspired by the history, nature and stories surrounding the site. Artists who are familiar with Downtown Austin, the O. Henry Museum, AFD Station #1 and/or surrounding community are highly encouraged to apply. Potential artwork locations include a half-height fence wall behind a large grass area, three areas within the natural landscape, and other possible locations, including the sidewalk and ground plane. Renderings of possible artwork locations can be found in the PDF provided on this application. The final artwork site will be determined in collaboration between the selected artist, City staff, and the community.
Site History
*Art in Public Places strives to reference accurate sources, however, AIPP is not an historical organization. Background information is meant only as a brief starting point to the depth of history at City sites.

Brush Square is one of the three remaining original downtown squares as envisioned in Edwin Waller’s 1839 plan for Austin. Waller’s plan set aside four blocks for public squares; today, Republic Square, Wooldridge Square, and Brush Square remain public parks. Brush Square is named for Seba Bogart Brush, a merchant, who used the Square to store cotton prior to his death in 1874. As late as 1900, Sanborn Maps show the Alliance Cotton Yard operated on the site and constructed a cotton shed and

The City’s first train tracks passed north of Brush Square along E. 5th Street and were later re-routed onto E. 4th Street. A train depot was planned for the block north of Brush Square but was never constructed. In 1872, the Old Depot Hotel on E. 5th Street was opened in anticipation of the unbuilt depot. The site later became known as Market Square and served as a public plaza before being developed as offices for the Texas State Department of Health in the 1930s and later as the Avenue Lofts
in the 1950s.

Between 1893 and 1895, the author William Sidney Porter, better known as O. Henry, resided in Austin in a nearby rental house that was later relocated to Brush Square in 1934. The structure now houses the O. Henry Museum, operated by the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department. Construction of the Central Fire Station No. 1 concluded on site in 1938. Edwin Kreisle and Max Brooks designed the building, which remains an important example of Art Moderne style. However, open space is limited by the fire station’s operations, which require much of the park to be used as a parking lot and equipment staging area.
Park improvements are organized into two phases. The first phase continues use of both the parking lot and fire station on site. The African American business district near the Square, supported dozens of businesses including numerous doctors’ offices, pharmacies, restaurants, tailors, barbers, and insurance and real estate brokers, representing a very successful African American entrepreneurial spirit that provided many services to Austin’s growing Black population.

The Square also houses the former home of Susanna Dickinson, a famous survivor of the Battle of the Alamo. This residence was moved from the block to the eastside of the Square in 2003 for the construction of the Hilton Hotel and is also operated by the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department.

The Square is the site of major events such as the annual O. Henry Pun-Off, which attracts hundreds of attendees and international competitors each year.
Applicants should meet the following requirements:

• Professional visual artist or artist team;

• At least 18 years of age; and

• Live in the 7-county Austin metropolitan area (Williamson, Travis, Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Burnet, and Blanco counties).

Full-time, permanent City of Austin employees are ineligible to apply. Employees of the project consultants and sub-consultants are also ineligible to apply. Artists who are under an active contract with the Art in Public Places program at the time of application are ineligible to apply.

Applications not meeting all eligibility criteria will be withdrawn from consideration.
Application Requirements
Resume: 3 page(s) maximum
Work examples: 5 - 10
References: 3
Artists are allowed to apply in teams.
Artists applying as a team must split the allotted number of work examples between themselves.
Additional Requirements
Demographics Survey: Communities
Demographics Survey: Gender
Demographics Survey: Pronouns
Demographics Survey: Race/Ethnicity
Demographics Survey: Veteran Status
Short answer question 1 Text
Short answer question 2 Text
Short answer question 3 Text
Selection Information
Selection Process
A Request for Qualifications (RFQ) will be distributed and applications must be submitted through by the deadline. The City of Austin Art in Public Places Panel will convene a jury to evaluate the submissions. The jury and advisors will review qualifications and select three to five finalists for interviews unless there is consensus on the selection of recommending one applicant and one alternate. The jury and advisors will then convene for interviews and select one artist/artist team and one alternate. This recommendation will be presented to the Art in Public Places Panel and Austin Arts Commission for approval. The approved artist(s) will be put under a design + commission contract to coordinate with the City and project team to develop a final design, which is also subject to approval by the AIPP Panel and the Austin Arts Commission prior to fabrication and installation.

Jury & Project Advisors
A 3-member jury shall be chosen to include at least 1 visual artist. Possible jury members include:
» Rehab El Sadek, Visual Artist
» Sam Barboza, Artist and Muralist » Ja’nell Ajani, Curator, Doctoral Student, Modern and Contemporary Art & African American art and art of the African Diaspora, University of Texas
» Brandi Mask, Public Art Board, Discovery Green
» riel Sturchio, Artist and Professor, University of Texas
Project advisors will be invited to participate in the process to provide assistance and expertise to the jury. The project advisors to the jury may include:
» Scott Sinn – Project Manager, Parks and Recreation Department, City of Austin
» Laura Esparza – Museums and Cultural Centers, Parks and Recreation Department, City of Austin
» Brendan Wittstruck – Principal, Landscape Architect, Asakura Robinson
» Ted Eubanks—Austin Historian
» Melissa Parr – Brush Square Museum
» Philip Wiley – Community Advisor, Downtown Austin Neighborhood Alliance
» Joel Nolan – AIPP Panel Project Liaison
» Maria Luisa "Lulu" Flores – Austin Arts Commission, District 9
The jury will be supported by:
» Marjorie Flanagan, AIPP Sr. Project Manager, Cultural Arts Division, Economic Development Department, City of Austin

No gallery owner, dealer, or art agent may serve as a juror due to the potential for conflict of interest. No juror may serve more than once in any two-year period in an attempt to bring a diversity of interests to the selection process and to more precisely match the expertise of the jury members to each project.
Selection Criteria
The selection of an artist or artist team shall be based on artist qualifications that best meet the requirements contained in this Project Prospectus. The Jury will review and consider the following evaluation criteria:
» Artistic merit and technical expertise;
» Ability to engage the community in which the artwork is being proposed; and
» Demonstrated success completing works of art.
For more information on AIPP project selection criteria, see:
October Prospectus approval

January Request for Qualifications released
Artist Information Session

February Call closes
Artist Interviews & Selection

March Artist Selection Recommendation approval
Artist under Contract

April/May Project Kick-off
Community Engagement
Possible Construction Project start date

July Mid-Design Review

August/Sept. Conservation Review/RAS/User Department Evaluation

October Final Design for approval

November Artist Notice to Proceed

December Fabrication

TBD Installation

December Artwork dedication to coincide with Park renovation completion
Additional Resources
Brush Square Prospectus (PDF)
Brush Square Prospectus en Español (DOCX)
Contact Information
Marjorie Flanagan
Project Manager
5202 E Ben White Blvd. Suite 400
Austin TX 78741 United States



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