I live to track down art off the beaten path—traveling to out-of-the-way places to see works of art that delight and inspire, or even confound me. I like knowing that 1) there won't be a huge crowd or line to get in and that 2) I'm one of a small(ish) group of people who have actually visited that spot.
One of my favorite art writers, Martin Gayford, wrote a book on this topic titled The Pursuit of Art: Travels, Encounters, and Revelations. It's as much about the journey to see art, much of it in far-flung locations, as it is about the art itself.
Every so often, I can get my mom interested in accompanying me on one of my art trips. Mom isn't a huge follower of art, but she likes a good adventure, and it was easy to get her to hop in the car with me last fall to see Under Her Wing was the Universe, an enormous public sculpture by artist and curator Romy Owens that was installed in 2020 in Enid, Oklahoma.
Enid is the 9th-largest city in Oklahoma, with a population of about 50,000, but it doesn't sit on a major interstate highway. It's about 90 minutes northwest of Oklahoma City, where Mom lives, and not really on the way to anywhere else. You kinda have to go out of your way to get there.
And that's what we did. Mom and I had both been following the progression of Romy's sculpture and donated to its crowdfunding. After following the progression of this enormous endeavor and seeing it for myself, I couldn't wait to talk more with Romy.
On this episode of the Art Biz Podcast, Romy and I discuss her commitment to raising $100,000 for this outdoor public sculpture and native prairie landscape as a gift to her hometown. As it turns out, $100,000 was just the beginning.
While it all worked out in the end, it wasn’t exactly easy getting there. Not only did Romy have to raise a lot more money than originally projected, she had to stand up to the naysayers in the community.
Romy is an artist that knows how to effectively measure success. Community collaboration, fundraising, overcoming controversy and yes, using spreadsheets are just a few of the topics that you won’t want to miss in this conversation.
Music by Wildermiss
- Romy Owens shares the leap of faith she has taken with her art and with her community. (3:30)
- Conceiving the project Under Her Wing was the Universe. (9:55)
- Relationships that informed the piece and my reaction to seeing it in person. (12:10)
- Naming the piece and finding value in all that is revealed in the universe. (16:06)
- Securing space for the project and making the connections that brought city approval. (20:04)
- Funding from the city and how Romy planned to cover the rest. (23:50)
- Launching a GoFundMe fundraiser. (26:40)
- Meeting tight deadlines and overcoming obstacles along the way. (28:26)
- Overcoming your fear of hearing “no” when raising funds. (30:33)
- Handling the controversy that comes with creating interesting art. (33:02)
- Key collaborators and supporters in creating a piece of this scale. (36:27)
- Keeping track of your progress with a system that actually works. (41:09)
- Measuring success and setting goals in specific and meaningful ways. (43:24)
- Ideas for generating interest in your art. (49:32)
Romy Owens Quotes
“Whatever your profession is, you want to surround yourself with people within that community. And thankfully in the art community, it really becomes a very cohesive community.”
“When we can cheerlead each other and when we can support each other and we can bounce ideas off of each other, we only become better artists.”
“Any artist who makes anything wants people to just pause for a moment and consider a different point of view.”
“How you measure success for one project may be different than how you measure the success of another project.”
About My Guest
Romy Owens is an artist and curator living in Enid, Oklahoma, who makes site-specific installations, as well as smaller objects, in reaction to place, community, and transformation. Her curatorial work attends to a similar focus.
Both Romy's artistic and curatorial practices are presently centered around community art designed to impact social change, using art as a method to broaden our understanding of specific issues.
Follow Romy on Instagram: @theromyowens
Music by Wildermiss