Andrew Reid SHEd, a native of New Zealand, migrated to the United States in 1986. Young and full of ambition, SHEd first settled in New York City, specifically in the borough of Manhattan. There he worked as a commercial illustrator. In 1990 SHEd left Manhattan and relocated to Brooklyn. Soon after, SHEd felt as though his heart had left NYC and in 1991 he moved to Miami's South Beach.
Miami's independent art scene blossomed throughout the 1990s. Emerging artists and art dealers capitalized on cheap rent and vacant warehouses. SHEd quickly acclimated himself with Miami's scene and he established a studio at the Miami Arts Center, which he described as an undiscovered affordable little universes.
commissioned artist. The money SHEd earned through his commercial endeavors proved to have more purchasing power in Miami than it previously did in NYC. SHEd made Miami his home, but the city also served as an incubator where he could grow his career as an artist.
SHEd came of age during the aesthetic war between punk rock and disco, and the art he creates indicates that punk rock emerged as the victor. SHEd's work has a tendency to highlight underrepresented narratives or marginalized communities. SHEd's style is a convergence between propaganda posters and abstractism, with a twist of mid-century modernism and a hint of Maori designs.
SHEd now works from his studio in Miami's Little River District. His work has expanded from murals to also include vinyl wraps, carved wood furniture, and cast fiberglass sculptures and architectural accents. He has been commissioned for public art projects across the United States, in libraries, police and fire stations, community and civic centers, and most recently eight Skyway columns along W Bay Street between N Hogan Street and Julia Street as part of Phase 1 of the Downtown Investment Authority (DIA) Urban Arts Project.
Before he developed his initial design proposal, SHEd spent time in Jacksonville gathering community input. He attended public meetings organized by Art in Public Places and conducted additional fact finding on his own. As a result, SHEd's Skyway column murals represent a variety of individuals and events that are culturally and historically significant to Jacksonville.
10 Questions with Andrew Reid SHEd
Do you have any patterns, routines, or habits when starting a new project?
Yes. I don’t actually draw. I research, read, listen, and ask. It’s totally a habit.
With every project, I first collect information. Information always precedes images. This allows me to get to know the community that I am serving. I am presented with the narratives of the community through the facts and stories that I gather. I then create lists using that information. After that I narrate scenes and incorporate quotes.
What have you learned about yourself through your career in the arts?
I am not a traditionally trained artist, so I’ve learned to take advantage of my commercial background. I approach art as a research project. I sometimes find it challenging to invent something from a stream of consciousness or out of thin air without a specific project behind it.
How do you define success in what you do?
To be the best at what I do is my definition of success.
How do you differentiate the role of a studio artist and that of a public artist?
Public perception for a studio artist should be irrelevant. Studio art is not to be affected by exterior or public opinion. When you’re in your studio, you are the inventor of your own vision without any exterior pressures.
Public art is project driven. Public art projects should address the needs, issues, and unique identity of each community. Therefore it’s about interaction with the public.
How did you transition from a career as a commercial illustrator to one of a public artist?
That is very easy to answer. In my continued career as a graphic artist, I am constantly trying to escape the limitations of my desk.
What factors do you take into consideration when developing a proposal in response to a call to artists?
The interior and exterior architectural factors control what I do. Walls, floors, etc. In the case of my work in Jacksonville, a column has no end. Look at the Skyway columns verses an interior wall. Because there is no beginning or end to a cylinder the columns are almost sculptural.
The materials and application are specific to every job. For example, on an exterior job, the materials must be appropriate to weather the elements. I have to take in to consideration if a project is indoor or outdoor, on a parking garage, or an interior light box, etc. Public art becomes part of the architecture of a community.
Community input is essential to a successful public art project. I take an anthropological approach when developing content for a proposal. I research and ask questions about community type, history, geography, and antidotes. I use this information as visual references. I gather every piece of information that I can get.
How do you stay up to date on opportunities available to public artists? Do you set either monthly or annual goals related to applications and proposals?
I try and apply for up to five public art projects per month. I have a success rate of becoming a finalist for 1 out of 10 opportunities I apply for. There are various resources – Café, Publicartist.org, and local and state divisions of cultural affairs. I am constantly looking for calls and reviewing opportunities. I apply to more opportunities out of state than in state.
What was the process by which you developed a style that felt authentic to you?
It’s more a plural than an individual style. I have a varied view depending on what I’m trying to do. A bold design and composition are a constant in every piece I create. I take a bold and confident approach to every project. Everything I do has strong graphics, proportions, and color. I appropriate a lot, but when doing so I believe that you have to make it your own.
What advice would you give to emerging and mid-career artists interested in pursuing a career in public art?
My first big commission was 25 years ago in Miami Beach. As a public artist, you have to accept the fact that you are kind of invisible. It is not about your brand. You are consciously working with others to achieve a group goal, which is very different from doing something personal for yourself. One should develop their communication skills to be able to ask questions, listen to answers, and learn through research.
Don’t work for free and write good, truthful artist statements.
What has your experience in Jacksonville been like? Additionally, what do you feel are aspects of Jacksonville that deserve more recognition and celebration?
Jacksonville has had a great effect on me and my time here has been very meaningful. Having been on W. Bay Street around the columns for a month, you can imagine all the interactions I’ve had with all types of people. I've had daily interactions with the workers and so called “normal people," as well as the large number, and variety, of people who seem to live on the street. The experience of painting the columns has been unique and beautiful. It’s like walking through a corridor of monumental architecture, almost a cloister effect.
In my brief time here I have met some young creative people who are coming on the scene and taking ownership of their city. Jacksonville has all the bones to quickly change into a destination for all. Public art can be a catalyst for that change. Things can happen very quickly. It can effect and improve economic development.
I encourage people to come downtown. Come down and try the food trucks! Check out the public art and engage the artist community! Marvel at the architecture of the city and the river. Jacksonville has a lot of history. You’re lucky to have it all.