Public art may conjure images of a historic bronze statue in the center of a city square or a mural on a downtown building, but this form of creative expression can take many forms. Often, it is meant to reflect and interpret the history of a place or its people, or to address a specific community issue in some way. The most successful projects are based on collaborative processes between artists and community members. This allows for a broad range of viewpoints to be considered and for the final work to truly belong to the local community.
In the modern sense, public art includes all creative works intended to be in the public sphere. These can be sculptures, monuments, memorials, integrated architectural and landscape architecture works, murals, community arts, land or environmental art and actions/interventions. Unlike works that are displayed in a museum or gallery, public art is meant to be enjoyed by a wider audience and can often be experienced by people who would not normally visit such places.
Typically, public artwork is commissioned and managed by government entities or nonprofit arts organizations. These types of institutions are tasked with making sure the public gets the benefit of art in their cities, towns and neighborhoods. This means that public art often receives more funding than private artwork and is required to undergo rigorous inspections during construction and installation. This process is not without its challenges as public art needs to be both beautiful and durable.
The enduring popularity of classical statues in places like Florence, Italy’s Piazza Della Signoria prove that public art is able to stand the test of time. However, even this type of art must undergo maintenance from time to time and the materials used need to be durable enough to weather the elements.
A lot of public art is ephemeral in nature and can be found in the form of temporary installations or graffiti. Its purpose is to spark interest and excitement for the local community and to attract more visitors to the area. It also helps to promote a city or town’s culture and identity.
The goal of public art is to make an impact on the community and to stimulate discussion and debate. It can challenge social norms, memorialize or celebrate important figures or events, commemorate a city or country’s heritage and traditions or criticize the political and economic status quo. It is important that public art is able to speak to the community and inspire the next generation of artists.
In recent years, urban planners and architects have started to take public art into account when developing buildings and neighborhoods. In some cases, they even include dedicated spaces for public art and have created programs such as “Percent for Art” to encourage the inclusion of such artwork in development projects. This has proved to be a successful strategy for encouraging the growth of communities that are both culturally diverse and economically strong.