Public art is a form of art that is installed in places where the general public can access it. It is often created in response to a local landscape and community and serves a variety of purposes.
Public artworks can be made of any art style, including sculptures and murals. They can also take the form of a building or other structure. Public art is normally found in easily accessible outdoor spaces, such as city parks, squares, streets and gardens.
Unlike the work of artists who make studio or gallery pieces, works that are considered public art must be designed to withstand a range of environmental and human conditions. They must be able to withstand extreme weather, heavy use by passers-by and the potential for vandalism or theft. They must also be able to communicate their intended message to the wider public in a way that is accessible to everyone, regardless of education or literacy levels.
Because of this, many public artworks are made from durable materials such as bronze and marble, or granite, steel and basalt (bluestone). They are usually sculptural in form but can also include paintings, photography and other forms.
Most public art is designed to be permanent, and it can be a challenge to create a piece that will be accepted by the community and stand the test of time. The major muralist movements of the twentieth century – Mexican muralism and WPA-sponsored murals in the US – aimed to develop national pride and assert core national values, while celebrating technological progress in a post-depression era. They used a combination of symbolism, colour and simplified figures to convey their messages in a way that was accessible to even the most illiterate members of society.
In modern times, public art has been commissioned to commemorate significant events, promote tourism and cultural awareness or simply beautify the surroundings of a public space. The creation of public art has become an important part of urban planning. It is also a way to express the unique characteristics of a place and its people.
Unlike private art, which can be sold or removed at any time, public art is generally considered to be part of the municipal heritage and must go through an official process if it is to be moved or replaced. This is because public art has the potential to be so influential and has a lasting impact on the local community.
There are a number of organisations that commission and produce public art, both in the United States and around the world. These include public arts boards, public art councils, government agencies and funding organisations. Typically, these groups will work together with architects, designers and local residents to develop and create a public art project. These projects can take years to be approved, funded and constructed. They can involve hundreds of people, from the artist or artists to the construction teams, approval agencies and funding bodies. They are sometimes referred to as “big public art” projects due to their scale and scope.