John Pitman Weber
Best known as a public artist, John Pitman Weber has also been active in the studio for over thirty years. Mr. Weber has created public works in England, France, New York City, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Chicago as well as for small cities in Georgia and Iowa. In over 40 major projects, he has collaborated with teens, young adults, teachers and seniors, landscape architects and contractors. His media include mosaic, cement relief, carved brick, ceramic tile and paint. He has led workshops in Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Joliet, Illinois; Jersey City, New Jersey, New Jersey; Brooklyn, New York; Philadelphia; Minneapolis; and Grand Forks, North Dakota, as well as Brussels, Paris, LaRochelle, and Cuernavaca. He has mentored complex projects and consulted on space and project planning.
In 2000, Weber and Nina Smoot Cain led the Iowa project for “Artists and Communities, America Creates for the Millenium.” With hundreds of local volunteers, they created The Gathering, an award winning mosaic plaza with columns, curving walls and benches, in Spencer, Iowa.
Weber co-founded the Chicago Mural Group (now Chicago Public Art Group) with William Walker, in 1970. His Toward A People’s Art, the classic account of the early years of the contemporary mural movement, co-authored with Eva & James Cockcroft, was reissued in 1998, in an expanded edition, by University of New Mexico Press.
Weber has also exhibited widely, including 30 solo exhibits. One of his paintings recently returned to the Spertus Museum from two years traveling in the Jewish Museum’s exhibit “Bridges and Boundaries.”
Weber studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts, Atelier 17, and Harvard University. He teaches at Elmhurst College in Elmhurst, Illinois.
John Pitman Weber Artist Statement
Collaboration is a source of inspiration for me and a wellspring of content. The dialog with residents and involvement of volunteers enriches the work. Collaboration with the audience has deepened my public work. I am always learning something from participants. Out of many ideas come satisfying and original solutions. I have worked with immigrant groups, students, and inner city youth. Participant teams have included factory hands and professionals, children with no art experience, and skilled senior citizen crafters. I especially enjoy intergenerational projects. My recent public work has focused on family stories and shared activities that bring generations together: music, learning, dance, food. I want art to have a flavor of “home cooking” and to resonate with childhood stories and shared dreams.
Context is always a matrix, providing focus, subject, and inspiration. To understand the visual and spatial experience of site, I walk, I photograph. The human landscape is as important as its physical/visual/ecological character. Listening to an open dialog with residents and stakeholders, inviting each to tell their own story is the key. Design images are distilled from a mass of expressive material. Residents contribute to the research, the design process, and when possible, the execution. To function effectively, the symbolic and affective content of the work must be deeply rooted in local ground and local experience.
While affirming shared heritages, participants can also rethink their identities and reframe perceived problems as positive challenges. The building of symbolic gateways and pathways evokes our ongoing human journeys, both as individuals and as a nation. Meeting places, markers, and wall images provoke exchanges of stories that affirm our reconsidered community and our re-imagined shared future. Community public art is a process of designing and symbolically building our lives together.