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Why public art matters….

Public Art within a community has cultural, social and economic value. It’s a reflection of our society and part of the public history and evolving culture within an area. Not only does it add meaning to spaces it allows communities to exhibit their uniqueness. It adds an intersection between past, present and future, between disciplines and between ideas. Public Art is accessible and communicates a place’s strong sense of place and identity within a community. A good piece of public art can capture the spirit and atmosphere of a place which in turn can announce to the wider areas what they are all about. It can almost be comparable to being a representation of the town or city, like a brand in some ways. Public art can be an identification of a place e.g. you know you are approaching Newcastle when you see The Angel of the North.

Aluminium polar bear public art sculpture by design studio Lazerian

5 reasons why public art matters.

 

  1. Economic growth and sustainability
  2. Attachment and cultural identity
  3. Social cohesion and cultural understanding
  4. Supporting artist and the creative community
  5. Art positively impacts mood and creates a sense of belonging
  1. Communities can grow when engaged in Public Art. It can attract and retain residents by enhancing the identity and character of communities. This in turn can directly support cultural tourism and economic development strategies. Healthy public art ecosystems can drive the growth of new business as well as attract and improve a communities competitive edge. By attracting new and visiting populations it can help to enhance the economy as well as help current businesses.  A study by Schofields shows that 40% of those under 33 are selecting their next trip based on ‘instagrammability’ If this is indeed the case then surely the more public art in an area the more marketable the area becomes to travellers.
  1. Public art can directly influence the way people see and connect with a place. Public art encourages people to be attracted and form an attachment to a location through historical and cultural understanding. It also highlights what is unique about the places that people live, work and play. Residents feel as though the arts improve the image and identity of their community. Also aesthetics is one of the top 3 characteristics of why a resident attaches themselves to a community. People feel ownership and respect towards a piece of public art because it is in their area, amongst their community space. This is part of the key to retain residents- to give them a sense of belonging and attachment to the area. Public art makes places unique through the reflection of local history and culture which gives communities a sense of place and identity. As many artists and designers of public art take their inspiration from the local area the piece usually has some sort of connection to the community- whether that be in the past or present time. 
Public art sculpture of a weaver bird in Darwen near Blackburn
  1. Art creates a sense of social connectivity that helps us understand and appreciate each other. With experiences that can be shared together it also encourages a sense of teamwork. There is no discipline that breaks barriers, connects across cultural differences and engages our shared value more than art and culture. There is no investment that connects us to each other, moves us to action and strengthens our ability to make collective decisions more than arts and culture. Art brings us together. Art provides a visual mechanism for understanding other cultures and perspectives allowing social re-connection with others. People have stated that art helps them to understand other cultures better and that art lifts them up beyond everyday experiences- surely this is proof that art unifies communities regardless of age, race and ethnicity. Public art allows individuals to understand strangers and neighbours alike. By reinforcing the culture of a community, public art acts as a catalyst for unity and social engagement.

The term public art refers to art that is in the public realm, regardless of whether it is situated on public or private property or whether it has been purchased with public or private money. Usually, but not always, public art is commissioned specifically for the site in which it is situated. Monuments, memorials, and civic statues and sculptures are the most established forms of public art, but public art can also be transitory, in the form of performances, dance, theatre, poetry, graffiti, posters and installations.

 

  1. Public art commissions support artists and other creatives within the industry and this is important to emphasize the importance of them as a visual member of the community. Artists bring innovation and creative insight which in turn can strengthen an area’s competitiveness within a national marketplace and this can play an important role in building and sustaining a vibrant economy and community.. Bringing in an artist also provides valuable contributions when they are included in the planning of public spaces-bringing their creative side and skills can result in a piece of public art that pushes boundaries but at the same time takes inspiration from the area in a historical, social and cultural context. Within the construction of a public art piece it can generate extra employment for local businesses. It can take a team to build and manufacture an idea. In turn this has an economical advantage and benefit for the whole area.  An artist’s interpretation of an idea can add extra creativity and enhance the area even more. These ideas and interactions can generate creativity in others inspiring an inventive result. Artists also challenge assumptions, beliefs and community values- allowing the community to re-evaluate and consider their beliefs and attitudes.
Close up look of a white steel frame sculpture. Public art by Lazerian
Public art installation using cardboard coloured pods by design studio Lazerian
  1. Studies are consistently showing that art drastically improves our mental health and overall well being. Passive exposure- such as visiting a piece of public art can get the exact same health benefits as people who enjoy making art. There is a direct correlation between everyday creativity and happiness. Art releases pleasure related neurotransmitters such as dopamine, and due to this makes engaging with art mood enhancing. Public art can help people to unlock their own creativity and therefore help their mood. Art also allows us to stop and take a breath. When something is in your vision you naturally slow down and make your walking speed slower. Surely this is a powerful thing in today’s fast paced society. Public art can influence how we move, think and feel in built up environments. Good installations can reach inside our minds and have profound effects on our behaviours. Public art can be a powerful tool to build better towns, cities and villages. By both engaging in public artwork development and facing artwork in the environment individuals become aware of their role in their communities. In addition public art in spaces such as hospitals has been shown to have clear public health impacts including decreased stress levels, eliciting awe, developing shared identity and generally promoting positive health behaviours.