The Art Biz ep. 26: Creative Placemaking and Public Art with Lynn Basa

Artist Lynn Basa understands the power of art to be a positive force in communities.

She is interested in the varied ways that artists are intersecting with public life. From more traditional “public art” to creative placemaking to socially engaged practice.

©2018, Lynn Basa, Workers Cottage Parklet. Glass brick, stone, concrete, LED lights and metal, 13' 1.75" x 11' 5.5" x 2' 1.5". Photo by James Prinz. Used with permission.
©2018, Lynn Basa, Workers Cottage Parklet. Glass brick, stone, concrete, LED lights and metal, 13′ 1.75″ x 11′ 5.5″ x 2′ 1.5″. Photo by James Prinz. Used with permission.

I talked with Lynn, author of The Artist’s Guide to Public Art: How to Find and Win Commissions, for the Art Biz Podcast. In particular, we focused on The Corner Project, an art space and community revitalization effort she founded in the blighted neighborhood of her Chicago studio in 2017.

In describing this project, Lynn said, and I paraphrase:

Every single artist … [brings] with them a certain amount of agency and value to wherever they are. They can do so much more. … It’s a paradigm shift that happens in your head where you start realizing that “I have something of value that I can contribute to society at large,” rather than just making an object and hoping it gets sold for enough money and that you can make a living.

You'll also hear her speak this truth: Art is a billion dollar business, and someone has to do it.

I think you’ll be inspired to think big and make a difference in your community after you listen to this episode.

One day Lynn Basa looked out of the windows of her studio building and was inspired to create The Corner Project. Photo courtesy Lynn Basa.

Show Notes

In this interview, you will hear Lynn talk about:

  • Her background as a studio artist and how it led to her interest in public art.
  • Her time at the Seattle Arts Commission.
  • The big jump of having her tapestries fabricated as rugs in Nepal, to then selling art to private collections, to finally teaching herself the business of finding customers.
  • How the accessibility of art and availability of selling it online has changed the industry over recent years.

    The Corner Project
    Edra Soto’s Relocating Techniques installation in the windows of The Corner Project, 2016. Mural on side of building by Julia Sowles Barlow. Photo courtesy Lynn Basa.
  • What creative placemaking is, why it has gotten a bad rap, and how it is different from public art.
  • Why she felt the need to go back to school in 2016 and get an MFA.
  •  What The Corner Project is, who funds it, the main mission of the space, and why she was inspired to start it.
  • Some of the obstacles Lynn faced to build a coalition and organize a community in The Corner Project.
  • What a typical meeting at The Corner Project looks like, her biggest challenges in running it, and what she wishes she would have known before starting it.
  • Why an artist would be interested in creative placemaking, and who isn’t cut out for it.
  • How her personal art has developed over time.
  • Her upcoming book, the second edition of The Artist’s Guide to Public Art.
  • Getting better results by truly listening rather than by imposing your ideas — especially in local politics.
  • How she learned how to pace herself and manage her time more effectively.
  • Inspiration for artists on how they can be catalysts in their communities.
Artist Lynn Basa
Lynn Basa at work in her painting studio. Photo by Doug vanderHoof. Used with permission.

About My Guest

Lynn Basa is an artist living in Chicago. In addition to having completed numerous public art commissions, she is a painter.

She has taught in the Sculpture department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is the author of The Artist’s Guide to Public Art: How to Find and Win Commissions. She is also the founder of The Corner Project, a creative placemaking initiative on three blocks of Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood.

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6 thoughts on “The Art Biz ep. 26: Creative Placemaking and Public Art with Lynn Basa”

  1. Alyson,
    Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to talk about my passion project to other artists. I sincerely hope that what artists take away from it is that wherever they are, whoever they are, there’s a corner near them where they can make a positive difference.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Entirely my pleasure, Lynn! And, I agree (as I sit here looking at my corner of privilege).

  2. This was a fascinating and inspiring podcast. I have to confess to being an artist who sticks pretty close to the studio. However, I’ve thought about finding fabricators in the past. This is a dumb question…how do you find good, trustworthy fabricators? It’s feel like stepping into a black hole.
    Thanks to both of you for this interview!

    1. Geri,
      It’s not so much a black hole as it is a new universe of possibilities. The choice is overwhelming because many of these fabricators exist outside of art fabrication — although more and more are specializing in it. One thing I recommend in my book is to look at the work of other artists on the Public Art Network’s Year in Review:
      The fabricators are often listed. Do this enough and you’ll start getting an idea of how your work could be translated to other materials and the variety of fabricators available.

      (While I was looking at the Year in Review I came across this awesome community project that I didn’t know about before, Eastpoint Public Art Residency:


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