Sunday, September 13, 2020

AMANDA HILL: AN ARTIST WHO WANTS HER WORK OUT IN PUBLIC

 

AMANDA HILL: AN ARTIST WHO WANTS HER WORK OUT IN PUBLIC 

Interview with Doug Holder 

I talked with Amanda Hill—the artist who created the wonderful mural at the Cambridge Health Alliance site in Somerville. A lot has been written about the mural—but I wanted to get a little more about the artist --in her own words. 

From her website:

 

  “Amanda Hill is a multimedia artist and muralist living and working in Greater Boston.

 

Hill's work is rooted in the deep exploration of objects. Hill elevates the status of her subject matter, heightening what many considered to be commonplace. Her paintings demonstrate an interest in color theory, color relationships, and structural tension.

Hill takes a special interest in a community's ability to make and experience art, as such she regularly designs, consults, and coordinates mural and placemaking/public art projects.

Hill received a BA from Smith College (Northampton, MA), and an MS in Nonprofit Management from The New School, Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy (New York, NY).  

DH: Although you don't live in Somerville now--do you still feel a strong connection to it?

AH: I lived in Somerville for about two years before I moved to Malden. I do still feel a strong connection to Somerville. I have fabulous memories from my time there, living with my partner for the first time, backyard bbqs, pottery classes Mudville the list goes on… I still frequent a number of restaurants and cafes in the area. I also have a good number of friends who are still in the Somerville area. I grew up on the South Shore, and went to college in Western, MA so I definitely feel a strong connection to Massachusetts and the Boston area as a whole. 

DH: Do you come from an artistic family? 

AH: Yes and no—a good deal of my family was drawn to music rather than the visual arts. My maternal grandmother was a concert pianist and played with the Boston Pops. She was incredible for her time. She was a professor of Music at Wheaton College, graduated from New England Conservatory of Music and attended the Fontainebleau School. She also traveled with the USO giving concerts. In terms of a career and the gig-economy, I would say her career was most closely related to mine. My maternal grandfather was a structural engineer who toyed with painting as an adult. My mom also has a natural talent for the visual arts and is quite adept at the piano. My twin brother has always had a natural talent for the piano as well, but he went into accounting and finance. One thing that my mother, brother, grandfather, and I have all had in common is a love for manipulating space—we love to be outside and often take on large building/gardening projects.  

DH: You seem to have extensive experience with public art. In some ways is public art more vital than art in museums?  Do you think it sparks interest in people who never really thought about art?

AH: I have been around/practicing public art since a sophomore in High School. My first foray into public art was with the organization Tape Art that is based out of Providence, RI.  In reference to museums vs public art, I wouldn’t say that one is more vital than the other—each are equally vital. However, I do believe that museums can lack accessibility. Museums tend to carry a certain stigma (and often a large admission fee) that can make them inaccessible or even uncomfortable for some to visit. This is one reason why I went in to public art! Public art is one of the most accessible art forms out there. I do truly believe that it can spark interest in people who have never really thought about art or have had minimal exposure to art. 

DH You did the mural at the Cambridge Health Alliance building in Somerville. What has the feedback been like so far? 

AH: The feedback has been great so far. I had a number of visitors while I was putting up the piece who comment on how much color and levity the mural brought to the space. I haven’t heard any complaints as of yet J 

DH: I see that you have a strong business background—and studied Business at Harvard, etc...  So many talented artists complain that they don’t have a business sense.  This has probably helped your career as an artist—am I right? 

AH: I have what I consider a very weird career trajectory. I drifted to the administrative side of the art world for about five years. I went to grad school, co-founded a nonprofit, and worked in operations and philanthropy before switching to working freelance and concentrating on my own artistic practice. Overall, my business/non-profit background has been helpful to my work as an artist, but I would also say that sometimes that business sense does get in the way of my work. I have definitely struggled with the lack of structure my artistic practice can sometimes take whereas the business side is relatively structured and constrained. Striking a balance can be difficult. 

DH:  You often use unused spaces for your work.  What do you look for when you pick a site?

I don’t often pick my own sites. I love working on all types of walls and structures. Most of the time, squarish, flat, untextured, unobstructed walls are some of the best canvases. With that said, walls that are irregularly shaped or textured can be very interesting to work on too. Mainly, I think is visibility is key—can the viewer take in a piece and see the work as a whole? 

DH: Tell us about upcoming projects?

Right now, I don’t have any public solo projects that I am working on. As it goes, projects that I had lined up a month ago have changed course and either been postponed or cancelled. I am in the process of finishing up some work for the City of Chelsea. Since June, I have been working as one of two lead artist/coordinators. Together with the City, we have organized a number of artist calls and hosted virtual artist-mentoring groups. We will be putting up a variety of painted murals and wheat-paste pieces by local artists in mid-September along Division and Cherry Street in Chelsea, MA. 

I am always looking for gigs, so feel free to get in touch if you or your community is looking to install a mural or public art piece.

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