Panel selects artist for federal courthouse display

2010-04-06T16:57:00Z Panel selects artist for federal courthouse displayGazette Staff The Billings Gazette
April 06, 2010 4:57 pm  • 

An upstate New York artist has been commissioned to create art for the new federal courthouse in Billings.

Jason Middlebrook was selected by a panel of the government’s Art in Architecture Program, the General Services Administration announced on Tuesday.

Middlebrook lives and works in Hudson, N.Y., and has had his work displayed at the Museum of Modern Art and Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City and Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art.

“His work has a very enveloping, almost overwhelming quality,” said Robyn Peterson, executive director of the Yellowstone Art Museum, who sat on the selection panel. “It really makes you feel like you’re in an otherworldly environment.”

Peterson said several dozen artists applied for the commission, including Montana artists, and Middlebrook was selected from a group of five finalists. U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Ostby also sat on the panel.

Middlebrook will travel to Billings to learn about the community and meet with citizens before designing a piece for the courthouse. His design will be approved by the Art in Architecture panel before it is constructed and installed.

GSA received $260,000 in federal stimulus money to commission art for the Billings federal building. The agency has included artwork in its buildings since 1850 to “create a lasting cultural legacy for the people of the United States,” according to a press release.

“It is through fine art and architecture that future genera-tions understand the cultures of the past,” the press release stated.

Peterson said public art is important because it reaches people who might never visit a museum.

“It is intangible,” she said of art’s value. “It doesn’t translate into dollars and cents. Art has its own value quite apart from economics.”

“Any dollar put toward mak-ing something beautiful is a dollar well spent,” Peterson added.

The new federal courthouse is slated to go up next to the Yellowstone County courthouse on Second Avenue North, although it is unclear who will build it.

GSA awarded a $54.9 million contract to Mortenson Construction of Minneapolis, but Sletten Construction of Great Falls has protested that decision, claiming its bid was $8 million lower.

The Government Account-ability Office is expected to rule on the protest sometime this month.

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