Jan Stein - Projects

inquiring minds want to know
Jan Stein's Public Art Legacy by Cheryl Kuck, "Brush Strokes" Columnist
Printed 2006 Brandon News/Media General
"They say, "a woman is able do everything a man can do with the added complication of doing it while wearing high heels." It will take time for the public to assess the merits of the Stein's male replacement.

They, and the County's Public Art Committee, will have to wait and see if there is any other human able to do the fine balancing act between the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners and the art world Stein has so faultlessly managed on her Manolo Blahnik's. "Jan laid the ground work for Hillsborough County's public art program. She built it from the ground up. She's the most creative person I have ever met and had more great ideas than the county had the time or money to ever implement. Her background and wealth of contacts provided invaluable resources to building the art program," says Edith Stewart, Hillsborough County Public Affairs Officer.

Since 1993 Stein, an arts advocate and activist, either volunteered or was employed to serve the people of Hillsborough County who wanted a fledgling public art program to flourish. Stein, along with former County Commissioners, including Joe Chillura, and Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, initiated and built the program together based on Civil Service guidelines under the premise that the arts would contribute to, and generally improve the quality of life of county residents.

During the early planning stages, the former public coordinator met with this Brandon News arts writer, "who called to complain about the inadequacies of art commissions, (and glaring lack of public representation of Florida's tax-paying, resident artists and artisans)." "This," recalls Stein, "formed a 15-year mutual goal of bringing the public art awareness to the greater humanity and the encouragement of state and local artists".

"There were tremendous challenges which culminated in cooperation and collaborations among public art committee volunteers appointed by the Board of County Commissioners, including accomplished sculptors, painters, architects of record, and a generous departmental staff, arts interested attorneys from the County Attorney's exemplary office, and hundreds of committees of residents who are supportive patrons of art in public places", remembers Stein.

Based on a County public art ordinance, enabling new building assessment to include built-in art allotments, Hillsborough's program has installed art in approximately 30 locations. With the public art committee as guides, every single project proposed to the Board of County Commissioners, received approval with a seven to zero affirmative vote by commissioners in favor of every work of art for the public art program that was recommended for purchase or acquisition.

This astounding record creates a legacy, which the passionate arts advocate says is, "Based on honesty, hard work, meeting and appreciating the challenges residents presented which resulted in building a consensus among disparate and diverse men and women. My legacy is also about the trust demonstrated by commissioners and artists listening to each other and thereby achieving mutually beneficial cultural goals."

"When you are immersed," the feisty coordinator and activist states, "you are not cognizant of any particular legacy. I just value learning new life lessons, being introduced to new and bad art forms, subjective aesthetics, and, sometimes, illusive art ethics. With 15 years of 'blood, sweat and tears' invested in this program, I would be sad if the residents, public art committee, staff and county commissioners do not perpetuate their ability to convene, to make decisions resulting in consensus and cooperation with freedom of expression becoming manifested in forms of publicly funded displayed sculpture and painting, but reach way beyond the art in itself."

"I have many wonderful memories and a few regrets that allow me to retire as a coordinator who now creates new ideas for yet another legacy." Finally, Stein proposes, "We all agree 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder' and from there, go on to validate what beauty is in the eyes of residents of all ages, their elected commissioners when they experience works of public art in their libraries, senior, recreation and park centers, at the courthouses, fire stations, in office buildings, outside and around the corner, and in their neighborhood."