TWO projects by the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) that have turned some of the city’s most densely populated areas into works of public art have been nominated in this year’s Business Day BASA Awards.

They are the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) station public art project, which involved the commissioning of art for the major stations along the Rea Vaya route, and the Fire Walker sculpture by William Kentridge and Gerhard Marx at the foot of the Queen Elizabeth Bridge.

The BRT project has been nominated in the Innovation Category, while the sculpture is nominated in the Single Strategic Project Category.

The station art project was initiated to celebrate the diverse stories that define Joburg, and the various works were commissioned by the JDA. It is managed and implemented by a group consisting of The Trinity Session, Turkis and Urban Works. The final designs, however, were selected by a group of local artists.

At each station, chosen artists have designed works that have been sandblasted on to the structure’s glass panels. Each work is specific to the station and its surroundings, as well as the community that it serves. As the BRT expands, so more stations are built, which will result in more public art decorating the city.

Fire Walker
Artwork is a defining feature at all Rea Vaya stations

The Fire Walker sculpture consists of large black and white metal plates that are positioned in layers, reminiscent of torn bits of paper. At close inspection, the 11m high sculpture appears to be a woman walking with a burning brazier on her head.

Supported by mining company Anglo American, the 13th annual Business Day Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) Awards will be presented at a gala ceremony at the Villa Arcadia in Parktown, Johannesburg on Monday, August 30. The aim is to pay tribute to companies that are actively making a difference by sponsoring arts and culture events throughout the country.

“Notwithstanding the current economic climate and the impact of the World Cup on arts sponsorship, we are delighted by the diversity and engagement of businesses in the arts, as seen by the finalist list,” said the chief executive of BASA, Michelle Constant. “More and more we are able to see how innovative both business and arts projects have become in order to truly leverage the relationship.”

According to the organisation, the list of nominees in the 12 categories reflects a growing awareness within the corporate sector both of the inherent value of the arts to society at all levels and of the business argument for supporting the arts.

Nominees include: the Absa Internal Choir Festival, sponsored by Absa; Imbali Visual Literacy Project: education and training in arts and crafts, sponsored by Diamscan SA; the Cultural Landscapes Exhibition, sponsored the Forum Company; Zip Zap Circus, sponsored by AFS Group; Africa meets Africa: Ndebele women painting in the city, sponsored by Plascon Paints; the Braam Kruger Retrospective Exhibition, sponsored by Standard Bank; and the Buskaid Soweto String Ensemble Botswana Tour, sponsored by Total South Africa.

This year’s finalists were selected by a panel of judges that includes: the co-founder and head of Vega School of Advertising, Gordon Cook; arts consultant, Nicki du Plessis; the managing director of the Loerie Awards, Andrew Human; marketing consultant, Ivan May; the co-founder and co-owner of multi-disciplinary design firm INK, Lisebo Mokhesi; and academic Jay Pather.