Across the world people seem blind to their surroundings, always fiddling on their phone or computer avoiding eye contact at all costs. Yet place a piece of public art in front of them and suddenly you will find a complete stranger asking your opinion. Public art takes up space in an urban environment, inviting us to notice it, it intervenes in our everyday routines and I like that. It breaks up the monotonous and sometimes oppressive nature of the working city life. I think such artistic creations – be they aesthetically beautiful, thought provoking, amusing or strange – are worthwhile. They have value - but are they really worth the final dollar value.
Public art, by the nature of it is controversial. Personally I love to see sculptures and paintings when I walk down the street. It provides a new way to experience what could otherwise be a very bland landscape. However I am very aware of the often obscene price tags that comes with public art.
The Australian government estimated they spend an average of $4000 a day on public art. This assumedly pays for commission, transportation, and installation. Arts Minister Joy Burch said just over $7.5million was spent for 109 works between 2007 and 20012 in Australia. It could be said this money would be better spent. It could be spent trying to aid problems in our society such as hunger, the homeless, poverty and government debts. It could go towards medical research or even our fixing roads. Basically I am saying there is a whole list of things this money could go towards, a lot of people that could really benefit from it.
Public art does however contribute to the economy. President of the Public Art Fund in New York City, Susan K. Freedman said “York’s Waterfalls cost about $15.5 million; they brought in, according to the Public Art Fund, $69 million for the city”. Art attracts tourists and tourists bring money. There is a lot of art that isn’t really aimed at tourists. It’s often only seen by locals and a lot of this art isn’t taken well my local communities because its not “good art”. If an artist makes good art, people will pay them for it. I think in some cases the government is not funding the people that make good art, its funding people that cannot make art good enough to sell.
There is a very thin line between good and bad public art. I think “good” public art should reflect an understanding and appreciation of the community’s values and principals. It should be sympathetic to the environment it is to be placed in and it should make an impact on the viewer – if only for a short while.
Public art although subjective, is a huge part of what makes our cities interesting. It reaches people who don’t otherwise go to galleries. It encourages us to talk about it. It links us together not as communities but as human beings. It has value, and it’s a value worth more than the financial costs.
In the end I don’t think it’s a case of helping people or having public art – I think it’s a case of having both.
This journal is not meant to offend anyone it is simply a topic I found interesting and I thought worth discussing as it is relevant worldwide.
I am sorry to say I have just done a bit of a boo boo and cut open my finger - nothing like stitches lol
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