Public art is a broad term that can refer to any artwork created for the purpose of being displayed in a public space. This type of art can take many forms, ranging from large-scale sculptures and monuments to murals, architectural installations, landscapes, and even graffiti. Public art is often seen in a variety of locations, but it is typically found outdoors as it is designed to be enjoyed by the general public in spaces that are easily accessible to everyone. This differs from private art, which may be confined to a gallery or other privately owned space.
Public Art is designed to be a part of the community and can take inspiration from the environment in which it will be installed. It is intended to stimulate dialogue with citizens and to reflect the diverse socio-political, historical and cultural issues that affect our lives. It also enlivens our cities by engaging residents, businesses and visitors.
Often, public art is created with specific community members in mind, such as honoring a city founder or a famous resident. Other times, the community’s desires for public art are more abstract, such as a desire to beautify their neighborhood or connect with their neighbors in creative ways. In any case, the creation of public art is a collaboration between the artist and the community.
The City seeks input from a wide range of community stakeholders on all proposals for public art. The design process includes meetings with a selection committee, which is comprised of residents from neighborhoods and businesses in the area where the work will be placed, artists, designers, members of the Cultural Advisory Board and Public Art Subcommittee, and representatives of City departments. The committee is responsible for evaluating the proposal and selecting an artist to execute it.
Once a piece of public art has been selected, it is installed at a site within the City that is open to the general public. Integrated public art, such as pieces that are built into the surface of sidewalks or buildings, is an example of this type of artwork. This type of art is usually permanent and can be difficult to remove or change.
Other examples of public art are applied or sculptural works that stand on their own, such as the sculptures found in the downtown Durham transit station. These are often painted or engraved on the surface of the work, whereas some are built into or surrounded by structures like building facades or pavement. In some cases, the work is a temporary installation that will eventually be removed. Nick Selenitsch’s linemarking series of 2009-12 is a good example of this type of work, which was installed in outdoor public areas and washed away after a few weeks. This kind of temporary public art is often created using percent-for-art ordinance funds. The City will seek feedback from all stakeholders on any proposed temporary art before making a decision about whether to retain it or move it.