Jordan Walters at Union Square
At DVDL DD, our work is grounded in research and forecasting, often in close collaboration with other experts in the field, but that doesn’t mean we are inside all day. For Ear to the Ground, we take our field work to the streets and conduct brief interviews with people on the street to learn more about how the public relates to institutions, and the ideas they hope to see implemented.
Dan Muro encountered construction manager Jordan Walters on a recent afternoon, sitting on the steps at Union Square.
DM: What brings you to Union Square today? Do you come often?
JW: Yeah, I’m here waiting to meet my friends for dinner. I usually come after work. In the summer I sit outside, read a book, see all the strange people walking by.
DM: Are there any civic or cultural institutions in the city that you consider “personal landmarks” or places that play a big role in your daily life?
JW: Union square is definitely a big part of my New York experience, 14th Street in general. When I was in college, I spent a lot of time in Chelsea wandering. Not “gallery Chelsea,” but “home furnishing Chelsea.” My drawing studio where I do figure drawing is definitely a major New York institution for me. I also do hang out at the Rubin [Museum] because they have great tea and they don’t seem like they’ll kick you out for just hanging out at their café.
DM: Is that your favorite museum?
JW: I’m not sure I have a favorite museum. I enjoy looking at the work of highly trained artists as much as anyone else, but there should be room for people to get together, talk, and make things. Art isn’t about what’s elite, it’s about what’s universal, at least in my mind. Most of the time when I leave a museum, I’m not leaving with a smile on my face.
DM: Do you have any ideas or hopes of how museums could better serve people?
JW: I think that the best use of institutional space is to foster community. When the institution places the public beneath itself in terms of production, taste, or accessibility, it doesn’t feel like a valuable way to use your power. There was this exhibition at Mass MoCA of handmade instruments. They aren’t really finished or refined, but [the artist] met with children and helped them make their own instruments, then you could go into the room and just play and make noise. You walk in and see a rack of pipes and you just start hitting them. Being in there, with all these non-professional artists, playing non-professional instruments was so nice because it was celebrating creativity, it was a funny cacophony and full of joy. We could use more of that.