Why Public Art Matters
When we think about memorable places, we think about their icons –consider the St. Louis Arch, the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower. All of these were the work of creative people who captured the spirit and atmosphere of their cultural milieu. Places with strong public art expressions give communities a stronger sense of place and identity.
Although it’s difficult to isolate the monetary impacts of public art, the social and cultural effects are invaluable. Public art enhances, and often creates, the identity of public spaces. It transforms cities and the way people perceive the world around them. Public art has become essential in making cities stand out and attract new homeowners, businesses, and professionals.
John “Crash” Matos, Popeye, Houston Bowery Wall, New York, 2013
Public art is a direct way to create accessible art for a community. Creating attachments to one’s community, art’s ability to transform public commons into vibrant expressions of imagination is powerful. By building and reinforcing community culture, public art can act as a catalyst for area generation or regeneration. A visual documentation of public history and our evolving culture, publicly displayed art reflects and reveals our society while contributing uniqueness to neighborhoods.
In addition to the aesthetic benefits of having works of art in public places, artists can make valuable contributions. Inevitably bringing personal and distinctive interpretations to their endeavors, artists participating in public art displays are able to effectively advocate through art for alternative perspectives that can challenge assumptions, beliefs, and community values.
Successful iterations of public art installations and displays include New York City’s iconic Houston Bowery wall, made famous in the 1980’s. Now privately owned, the intended advertising space remains as a historic landmark with rotating murals by celebrated artists for the public to enjoy. Collaborating with artists such as renowned graffiti artist John “Crash” Matos, the Houston Bowery Wall strives to showcase a wide variety of style and technique to the public, challenging preconceptions of what art is and often prompting viewer introspection.
Anish Kapoor, Cloud Gate, 2006, Millennium Park, Chicago
Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate in Chicago's Millennium Park has gained enormous popularity as people look into the concave sculpture to interact with the art. A highly regarded tourist attraction, Millennium Park has become a travel destination in addition to bringing the community together by enabling discussion with others surrounding the artwork. Curated by the Brooklyn Museum, their experimental exhibition Say Something places the artwork of Brooklyn artists in public spaces throughout the borough. Aiming to emphasize the Museum as a place for dialogue and education, artworks such as Deborah Kass’ OY/YO acknowledges Brooklyn’s historic Jewish, Black, and Hispanic populations as her sculpture reads either “Oy” or “Yo” depending on the viewer’s perspective.
Deborah Kass, OY/YO, 2015, Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York
Benefiting neighborhoods and artists alike, public art provides the larger community with beauty and culture while affording the experience of viewing art without limitations.