Messages to the Public formed a key part of the Public Art Fund's long-term commitment to media-based artworks. Running from 1982 to 1990, the show featured a series of artists' projects created specifically for the Spectacolor board at Times Square.
As Russell Miller from Ohio newspaper The Blade Toledo explained in his article on February 19, 1984, “every month, a different artist presents a 30-second animation on the Spectacolor light board—an 800-square-foot array of 8,000 red, white, blue, and green 60-watt bulbs that dominates the Times Square vista. The spot is repeated more than 50 times a day for two weeks, wedged into a 20-minute loop of computer-animated commercials.
“Jane Dickson, a painter, was working for Spectacolor, Inc. as an ad designer and computer programmer when, three and a half years ago, she first thought to use the light board to display noncommercial art.
“‘I picked that title,’ she said of Messages to the Public, ‘because I thought the propaganda potential from this project was terrific.’ The board, she noted, was regularly used for ‘commercial propaganda.’
“Dickson sought help from the Public Art Fund, an organization based here and dedicated to taking art out of the galleries and placing it in the city’s streets and parks.”
Project director of the Public Art Fund Jessica Cusick explained, “We’re trying to do art that’s timely, has a message, is visually potent and is trying to deal with the fine line dividing fine art and commercial art.”
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