First thing’s first. I’ve got skin in the game. I love art, in all it’s myriad forms. I consume art voraciously. Our company survives and thrives by creating beautiful things. (Is design also art? Let’s save that for another post.) My main point is that this is not an objective viewpoint. I’ve seen the impact that art has on lives, and it is frankly tremendous.
So what is Public Art?
Public Art, for purposes of this article, is any visual art that is intended to be displayed in public (duh, right?), not in a paid art gallery or someone’s home. I would even assert that the conference room murals that we recently implemented for a client is public art, although outdoors in public spaces is my favorite. There is controversy as to what might be considered public art. Lately graffiti and old monuments have been the subject of much debate. I’ll talk about graffiti next, but Corinne won’t let me rant about monuments. Probably for the best.
I wouldn’t put anything illegal into the category of Public Art. As you may be aware, one of our murals was recently “tagged” by some clowns with a spray paint can. I would also posit that endless scribbles of your “tag” isn’t art, it’s a doodle. I may be a hypocrite, because I’m a huge fan of some street artists that put up pieces without permission, but those artists have a code that is pretty strict. A real artist stays off other people’s work, y’all! So let’s just be on the safe side and make sure you have permission to paint before you start, eh?
Restoring our tagged mural, tagged by some jerks with spray paint cans:
Public Art Makes Economic Sense
I’m going to try to convince you to spend some of your hard earned dollars on public art. Whether that’s tax dollars or dollars out of your business’ pocket. Let’s explore why that’s a good idea.
When we purchased our headquarters a few years ago, we immediately started on a mural. Heck, even when the building was still abandoned we had fun with it. As long as we’ve had this building, it has been surrounded with art.
The first economic benefit is that folks love coming here. It’s warm, inviting, and as soon as they park, they see a positive message: “You’re Important to the Future”. That’s a really nice sentiment and puts all of us in a mood to work together and collaborate. It’s also great for giving directions and creating awareness.
The second economic benefit is what’s called “earned media”. Doing something that makes your neighborhood more beautiful and interesting will generate articles and social media posts that you wouldn’t believe. People love art and you will benefit by participating. Here’s a great article on our art collection, published by LEO Weekly.
Public Art Creates Civic Pride
When our mural was tagged, the outpouring of love and support for our building and our mural was heart warming. The number of shares on social media, and the people that came forward really helped us understand that the community owns this art just as much as we do.
The concept is very simple. Create something for people to enjoy and be proud of, and they will.
Public Art Promotes Tourism
I recently met a group of 5 or 6 folks in town from Michigan the other day, taking pictures of our murals. They were on a Public Art tour of Louisville that day. I was shocked and impressed at the same time. My only thought was… “there’s not enough yet!”.
This is definitely a case of “build it and they will come”. People will explore a neighborhood to find art. That means they’ll visit the restaurants and the shops and spend their hard earned dollars. Think of investing in Public Art as investing in your business. Shout out to organizations like Louisville Visual Art and Fund for the Arts that are working hard to incorporate more public art into our community.
Public Art Encourages Contemplation
This is my sincere call to “keep it weird”. The echo-chamber of social media is actively discouraging the act of contemplation. We look to Facebook now to be told how to feel about something. My point is, Louisville doesn’t need another bourbon barrel or fleur-de-lis. How about a bronze statue of Stripes-era Bill Murray on Main Street, where scenes from the movie were filmed? How about an oversized Victrola like what was built this year at Burning Man?
Yes, we’re going to post your art on Instagram, but in the moments we’re admiring that art, give us something to think about!
* The featured image at the top of this post is of the Temple of Gravity by Zachary Coffin.