Public art is a broad term that describes the diverse range of artworks created specifically for public spaces, from large-scale installations to street murals. Typically, public art is commissioned specifically for the site where it will be located and takes into account the social, cultural and historic contexts in which it will be placed.
Many people think of statues and monuments when they hear the word “public art.” Classical examples include Michelangelo’s David and Donatello’s Marzocco in Florence, Italy, or the Pantheon in Rome. However, modern public art is an extremely diverse field and includes murals, sculpture, integrated architectural or landscape architectural work, community art, and digital new media.
The History of Public Art
Ancient public art can be found in cities and towns around the world. For example, the Piazza Della Signoria in Florence, Italy, has been home to classical public sculptures since 1416. Some of these works have been moved to museums for preservation purposes, but others remain in the square.
A number of ancient and contemporary artists, including Picasso and Salvador Dali, have dedicated much of their artistic career to creating public artworks. Similarly, many of the most well-known graffiti and street artists such as Banksy also specialize in creating works for the public.
Some of the most important and successful modern public art is centered on social issues. For instance, the 2013 project Between the Door and the Street by Suzanne Lacy brought 400 women together on a residential block in Brooklyn to discuss gender politics as part of her public art installation.
Another example of an exemplary public art project is the 2010 work Seeing in the Dark by Jennifer Diggs. It is a large-scale, interactive art piece that uses the power of light to illuminate the dark side of life. It was based on a community-organized initiative to address racial profiling and harassment, and the result was a major success.
The purpose of public art is to enhance the quality of life for the local community. A number of studies have shown that art can improve street safety, provide economic benefits, and combat feelings of loneliness and isolation.
In the United States, governments have a variety of ways to fund and support public art, including through local, regional or state organizations. For example, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Park Service often make a percentage of their grants to support local, regional or state-wide public art projects.
These grants can be used to commission and install art pieces, or as a means of funding ongoing maintenance and programming. They can also be used to pay artists for their work.
The definition of public art is constantly evolving, and artists are increasingly interested in working with communities to create artworks that reflect their own cultural backgrounds and perspectives. In addition, more and more artists are bringing their works outside of traditional museum and gallery settings, believing that such spaces offer a more open and uncensored venue for their art.