City Engineer, Megan Carter collaborated with local artist, Aida Lizalde to create a multi-media sculpture that will be showcased as part of the Engineers and Artists event at Hacker Lab this Saturday, March 9.
The untitled work, that leans on stylistically toward minimalism and graphic painting, represents real and imaginary symbols of the central area of the city of Sacramento.
To learn more about the creative collaboration between artist and engineer, City Express sat down with the dynamic duo for a quick Q&A.
Q: What made you interested in the Engineers and Artists project?
Carter: Given the opening, I will loudly declare I have no artistic skills, whatsoever. While that isn’t true – I think we all have ways of expressing ourselves creatively and artistically – I jumped at the chance to be the “engineer” in this collaborative project. To provide my technical experience and perspective, contribute inspiration to the artist, and best of all represent the City and engineers in Public Works in a positive light was an opportunity I could not pass up.
Lizalde: A long time ago I read a book called “Off the Wall” that was sort of a biography of an artist named Robert Rauschenberg. In this book they mentioned where a similar project that paired up engineers with artists. People like John Cage and Merce Cunningham did artwork this way and I really admire those artists. When I heard from Kara, the curator, I was definitely interested in that type of collaboration. Most of my work comes about through conversations and ideas that analyze social systems and structures in relationship to my experience. I hoped something interesting would come from meeting someone that works in a different field and seeing if we had overlapping interests.
Q: Aida, describe the meaning behind the piece you created with Megan.
Lizalde: The work is based on the concept of “The Future of Together.” This map represents Sacramento geographically through time, space, population, and economy. It attempts to illustrate a binomial aspect of how the city is fragmented and how it is also in unity. Some aspects of the imagery represent past red-lining divisions of the central Sacramento region that influenced the way mobility happens today (literal and economic), some represent current districts, waterways, bike paths, freeways, parks, ethnic and racial population ratios and connectedness between different neighborhoods and resources. Its parts cannot be understood as isolated parts nor as a larger homogeneous concept but as both.
Q: Megan, how did you and Aida come up with the theme?
Carter: Verizon’s creative team provided the Engineers and Artists group with five 5G-related themes to choose from and create an original artwork around. Aida and I were inspired by the theme “The Future of Together.” My daily interaction with maps and professional experience with the 3-D complex puzzles that are civil engineering projects paired well with a previous series of works Aida had made of abstracted maps of her personal experience. The interconnectedness and unseen layers that come with the infrastructure of a city and also the social and geographical layers of a city were major concepts to the drawings.
Q: How did the two of you collaborate?
Lizalde: Megan’s job, as I understand it, deals with the symbolism associated with rules of moving around the city whether by walking, riding a bike or a vehicle and parking. Signage, road lines, and maps in her work informed the way I represented forms in mine. We quickly sparked conversations about space on who and what behaviors are allowed in certain spaces, grids, natural resources, and old geographical “scars” where bodies of water and train tracks used to exist were also really inspiring to the drawings.
Q: You both live in Sacramento. What do you like about living here?
Carter: I like living in downtown Sacramento because of the endless options for entertainment, food, and activity. I like working here for other reasons. I could be an engineer in any California city, but Sacramento is special in several ways. The history of how it developed into what it is today; the bones of the old gold mining/trading hub; the growth of the neighborhoods, with each ones unique character; the importance of working in the State Capitol; and most of all the chance to be innovative in my field and use the motivation of this community to try new ways to move people. It’s all very exciting.
Lizalde: I like my arts community the most. Sacramento has a thriving and growing community of artists and in a place like this we have the potential to start new things and experiment with a little less of the pressure that artists from other major cities face, although things are changing and we do foresee some of those issues like housing insecurity affecting us. I like the trees, the rivers, the closeness to the mountains, sea and the bay. I also really like the great coffee and food.
Q: Megan, how long have you been working at the City of Sacramento, and what do you like about your job?
Carter: I’ve worked for the City of Sacramento since September 2016. So about 2.5 years. As I noted above, I like the opportunity to be innovative in my field of transportation/traffic engineering and to try new street designs to provide space for other modes than just the single-occupant car. However, on a personal note, this work is only enjoyable because of the wonderful people I get to share my day with. I love that every project I work on is a collaborative effort between many City staff. We build this City and serve the public as a team.