What is public art, and why should we care? We have a regular feature on Facebook and Instagram called “Fun Friday” where we encourage you to check out an art related event. Frequently, we have featured local art walks in various cities. Visitors wander through the city discovering various works of art in the public space.
Here on the blog, we’ve encouraged and celebrated public art. But public art doesn’t have to be formal. I want to suggest five reasons why you should enjoy, support, and even create art in your local community.
Aesthetically pleasing spaces improve the public health.
Cities that have experimented with public art on the streets and crosswalks found that traffic slowed down. Slower cars mean fewer accidents. Where such art is valued, pedestrian activity increases. People want to enjoy the beauty. When we consider trees, flowers, and landscaping as art in public, the positive effects on our public health are even easier to see. We were made to enjoy beautiful things, and when we do, our stress levels decrease.
Public art sparks conversation
When we look at art, sometimes the meaning of the work is clear. Other times, we may have no idea what’s going on in that particular work. Art causes us to ask questions. And those questions can lead us to seek out others and talk together. Art in public places raises public questions and promotes public discussion. In our digital world, we often forget how to talk to one another. Art provides us with just such an opportunity.
We want economically sustainable communities
Communities that are connected are more sustainable. When residents of a community take an active interest in loving their place, everyone benefits. Public art provides an excellent opportunity for even economically depressed areas to move towards greater sustainability. In one neighborhood in Detroit, residents came together to turn abandoned houses into community art centers. And now that idea is spreading to other cities.
Public art encourages greater civic engagement
Similarly, both the creation and enjoyment of art in your neighborhood brings the community together. Young and old collaborate, citizens take action to prevent the destruction of green space and to promote cultural activities in their neighborhood. However, to really promote civic engagement, public art needs to grow organically, from the bottom up. Local government mandates for public displays can actually be counterproductive in the long run, but it can be a good place to start.
Community attachment or placemaking is vital
Finally, placemaking leads to community attachment which leads to human flourishing. Neighborhood involvement in community art projects directly promotes placemaking. Neighbors work together, the space is beautified. Foot traffic increases, car traffic decreases. Everyone wins when we love where we live.
So, where is the local art in your neighborhood? If there isn’t any, what can you do to spark an interest? Maybe it’s as simple as painting a picnic table and welcoming your neighbors. Or perhaps you want to talk to your local council member about painting a mural. You could spend your weekend finding the art that already exists in your town’s public spaces – and take a friend along with you. Whatever you choose, let’s use art as a way to seek the welfare of our city. And share your story below so we can all celebrate together!