Passover, Freedom and Public Art: An Interview with Julia Vogl

Read the beginning of this wonderful interview with Julia Vogl by Judith Rosenbaum of the Jewish Women’s Archive here, and then read the rest on their blog site linked below.

Artist Julia Vogl travels the world, transforming public spaces into works of art that reflect the shared experiences of the local community while embuing those spaces with strikingly vibrant color and patterns. This spring, in a piece commissioned by Boston’s Jewish Arts Collaborative, Vogl will bring her love of color and storytelling to the Boston Common in Pathways to Freedom, a public-art installation inspired by Passover that showcases perspectives on immigration, freedom, and personal history from the Greater Boston community.

I was lucky enough to speak with Vogl about her transformative work, her love of color, and how she “puts the public back in public art.”

In a Ted Talk you gave in 2015, you discuss your desire to “put the public back into public art.” How did your relationship to public art and social sculpture first begin?

My interest in public art stems from a confluence of experiences. I worked as summer intern for a high-profile NYC gallery in college and felt it was removed from the community I wanted to engage with art. It seemed that certain gallery work was just for the rich and educated and that rubbed me the wrong way. Soon after this, in February 2005, I got to experience Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s The Gates and was blown away. The big conversion, and my passion, to make public art with community, was working at Public Art for Public Schools under my now mentor Michele Cohen. She really coined the phrase “putting the public back into public art,” and was a huge inspiration to me in understanding both the power of public art and the process of commissioning, contracts, community boards, and collaborating with artists and architects to make large scale work for public spaces. I saw artists make incredible work and I also saw the shortcomings of not involving the community enough––these experiences were my drive when I set out to get my MFA, and ultimately led to me making social sculpture.