Public art, especially work created by local artists, is a creative amenity to add to public spaces to enliven them and reflect the community’s culture.
“Art can bring beauty and hope into public spaces and transform people’s perception. Moving art out of the museum and making it free to everyone opens up a flow of ideas and a sense of belonging.” Ellen Ryan, program director for creative placemaking, the Trust for Public Land.
Public art creates a vibrant atmosphere that contributes to the quality and cultural identity of a community; enhances the character of community; and supports cultural tourism and economic development.
Adding a touch of art is a great way to create a sense of place in public spaces in your community. And, placed in public spaces, art is there for everyone.
Public art, as defined by Americans for the Arts, can take a wide range of forms, sizes, and scales—and can be temporary or permanent. Public art can include murals, sculpture, memorials, integrated architectural or landscape architectural work, community art, digital new media, and even performances and festivals!
Parks, and other large parcels of open space, are choice venues to display big and bold public art. The sculpture collection in New York City's Parks constitutes one of the greatest outdoor public art museums in the United States. More than 1,000 monuments, 300 of which are sculptures, grace New York’s most prominent public and civic spaces.
“Placing art in public parks – where visitors from all walks of life can enjoy it freely – is an exciting way to celebrate community culture and create a space that encourages people to linger and interact in a way that is rare in indoor galleries.” Will Rogers, President, Trust for Public Land.
Take a look at the whimsical and creative art installations in Chicago’s Millennium Park , a state-of-the-art collection of architecture, landscape design and art that is a new kind of town square and lively, spectacular gathering spot located in the heart of the city. The Crown Fountain projects video images from a broad social spectrum of Chicago citizens, a reference to the traditional use of gargoyles in fountains, where faces of mythological beings were sculpted with open mouths to allow water, a symbol of life, to flow out.
While back at the ranch, thirteen life-size horses gallop through the middle of the Morrison Nature Center in Aurora, CO, a popular nature center in the Denver-Aurora metropolitan area. The horse silhouettes, created by Douwe Blumberg, are constructed of weathering and stainless steel.
Art along trails and greenways is being used as a creative way of enhancing trail interpretation. It is also being used as an effective tool for telling a trail's story compellingly and memorably.
The four miles of hiking trails that wind through the Brooker Creek Preserve in Pinellas County, FL are enhanced by 15 interpretive trail signs and two sculptures with dimensional elements and interactive components to create a multi-sensory experience for visitors. One sculpture on the boardwalk at the Preserve, entitled Metamorphosis, is 50 feet of swirling metal and glass with a cluster of spindles that represent native plants, wild animals, and humans.
When big, open spaces are limited, especially in urban places, public art takes different forms. Empty walls have been transformed into huge public murals in many urban communities. The results can have a lasting effect on local neighborhoods. Murals can help to enhance neighborhood and community identity, turn ordinary spaces into community landmarks, and promote community dialogue, all while fighting blight and vandalism.
“Murals build a sense of community,” says muralist Grace McCammond. “They make it welcoming and walkable and they make you want to go there.”
In Baltimore, the Baltimore Mural Program helps neighborhoods to become more attractive, instill a sense of pride, combat graffiti in neighborhoods, and engage young people in the beautification of their own communities.
In Washington, DC, City Arts creates vibrant public murals and mosaics in Washington, DC and beyond through a collaborative process with community members. City Arts creates large-scale public artworks with the assistance of talented DC youth. A special effort is made to recruit students who live in the neighborhoods where the artworks will be featured.
Realtor® Associations are taking advantage of NAR’s Placemaking Micro-grant to enliven their communities and creating a sense of place with creative placemaking.
The Racine BOR (WI) is using a NAR Placemaking Micro-grant to create and install a three-panel mosaic at the Racine Zoo Beach.
And the Bronx Manhattan North Association of REALTORS® used the Placemaking Micro-grant to create a community mural adjacent to the new Morrison Avenue Plaza Project. This Plaza will transform underused streets into a vibrant, social public space that promotes community engagement, cultural activities, and economic vibrancy. See: Timing is Everything.
So, how can a touch of art be used in your community to create a sense of place and engage residents?