The Headlands Debuts Three New Exterior Commissions
This September, the Headlands, the pioneering, Marin-based interdisciplinary center for the arts, debuted the Commons, an artist-led commission that re-envisions its physical site through three permanent outdoor installations: “The idea of creating a physical ‘commons,’ an unencumbered place for discourse and gatherings of all kinds felt like a natural progression of our core values,” explains Headlands Director Sharon Maidenberg. The three works, Los Angeles design studio Ball-Nogues’ Welcome Terrace East & West; Rotterdam-based artist Chris Kabel’s Wall Space and San Francisco sculptor and performance artist Nathan Lynch’s Doubledrink, are now integreated into the Headlands landscape. Here, Maidenberg shares the impetus behind the project and the evolution of the campus.
What is the Headlands’ mission?
Art at Headlands is being produced in real time. Our commitment is to provide artists with vital support—time and space to create work, as well as direct financial support that lessens the constraints that practicing artists face—in an unparalleled physical environment, and with a robust community of others in a variety of creative fields.
Can you share a bit about your unique platform?
From the onset in the early 1980s, our model was unconventional, and was in many ways was a response to the growing needs of artists in the Bay Area whose work was site-specific, performative, ephemeral and not easily commodified and packaged for commercial galleries.
How does the Commons evolve that model?
The Commons brings so many aspects of our legacy into the out-of-doors. Through our partnership with the National Park Service, and with the vision of lead architects, CMG Landscape Architecture, we were able to plan for a space that would honor the history here and create new points of entry to the cross-disciplinary artistic practices. The Commons’ architecture draws on everything from the shapes and forms of the now defunct military structures that dot the hillsides, to the incorporation of a selection of native plants that you might find underfoot on a hike, placing our campus further into the historical and structural vernacular of the Marin Headlands.
How did you select the three designers/artists?
We wanted to engage artists who would respond to the arts center’s history of commissioning, the physical environment and elements, the idea of integrating a narrative into the project and who would bring a timelessness to the space itself. We issued a call for concepts and from those invited about a dozen artists to develop proposals and come visit the site in person. These three projects rose to the top of our list and seemed to fit together as a suite, if you will, that together is poetic, functional, elegant and site appropriate.
Headlands’ seasonal Open House also takes place this month; what can visitors expect to see?
We host Open House three times a year, and each is a little bit different as the artists in residence change seasonally. Visitors will see works in progress across all disciplines, enjoy readings, screenings and performances, and hear from artists directly about what they are working on and thinking about in real time.
A version of this article appeared in the October 2017 issue of SFC&G (San Francisco Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Sculpting the Land.