Presenting visual and performance art in unexpected public spaces.

AiOP 2014 FREE Looking Back: Leah Harper “Complimentary”

Under the theme of FREE, Art in Odd Places (AiOP) celebrated their 10th year engaging with works that celebrated ideas of openness, autonomy, and independence. As we prepare for AiOP 2015: RECALL and our exciting 11th year, we’re taking time to look back at some of the works that embodied last year’s theme and see what the artists learned by producing their piece and how working on 14th Street impacted their practice.


Complimentary, photo courtesy of Lindsay Curran.


Can you describe your contribution to AiOP: FREE?

project title


Lean Harper, AiOP FREE 2014 

project description

“Complimentary” is an interactive installation that distributes free compliments inside capsules from a toy vending machine. All compliments are submitted by the public, either on-site or online. The goal is to make ordinary public space more playful and engaging, and to offer a brief and uplifting pause to one’s day.



Complimentary, photo courtesy of Lindsay Curran.

Working in public space, one is often forced to deal with the unexpected. What surprising turns did your work take during AiOP: FREE?

The business my project was located in front of asked me to remove it from their very wide sidewalk, where it was placed against a column belonging to a public park. After AiOP spoke with them, they agreed it could stay and admitted to wanting more art in their building.


How has the experience of making work for AiOP changed or influenced your practice?  Has it added any elements or led to any changes in your method, technique, or medium?

My goals and medium are the same, but I have more confidence to pursue other large-scale projects, and more recognition to help gain other opportunities.


Complimentary, photo courtesy of Lindsay Curran.

Fourteenth Street is comprised of many different “publics.” There are the shoppers at Union Square, the commuters, the residents, the shop owners and merchants… How did your work interact with these publics, and what were the outcomes?



Complimentary, photo courtesy of the artist.

The proximity of the Highline, Hudson River Park, and a Citi bike station attracted commuters, residents, and a large number of tourists. After a nearby street vendor gave advice on how to draw people in- like the addition of a large “FREE” sign, larger crowds stopped to investigate the project.


What advice do you have for artists who are making their first foray into working in the public realm?

Not everyone will get what you are doing.

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