Public Art and Creative Placemaking

Public art is a key component in creative placemaking. It’s a no brainer really: enhancing your environment increases residential and tourist footfall, which, in turn, improves local economies. Leveraging public art for placemaking is a visible symbol of renewal, fostering civic pride, and creating a strong community identity to attract investors, tourists and workers. Here are a few examples:

Murals are becoming increasingly popular in communities of all sizes and for an obvious reason: they create a big impact. Unfortunately, they have their downsides too. Murals require regular (and costly) maintenance and upkeep, and there are logistic issues. If the building is sold, what happens to the mural? There are also concerns about placing them on historic buildings, specifically previously unpainted brick as it can damage the structure and cause long term issues with the space. As public art becomes more and more prevalent, you may be looking for other public art options so let’s talk about alternatives.

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Installations are three-dimensional artworks that are created specifically for a particular space. They can be made from a wide variety of materials, including natural and found objects, and can be interactive or static. Installations can be used to transform a space and create a new experience for visitors. An installation of frames also gives you the opportunity to change out the art and encourage repeat visits to the site.

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Performance art is a type of public art that involves live performances by artists. It can take many forms, from dance and theater to music and poetry. Performance art is often used to engage and interact with audiences. Creating a stage or space where this can be a regular occurrence could be an important part of your design agenda as it has multiple uses. Watch the this video where you’ll undoubtedly feel the infectious joy created in these communities! You’ll be dancing in your seat.

Ephemeral / non-permanent art is temporary art that’s meant to fall apart, degrade, or blow away in some fashion. It adds a sense of whimsy to a community space.

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Integrated: Pavements, building façades, and landscapes host integrated public art. The artist or design team takes the surface into account and makes the art around what is available. This could include doing wraps around electric boxes and beautifying crosswalks.

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Planning for the possibility of interactivity. Since so much of public art is meant to withstand the elements, it should also withstand humans. Although, interaction can degrade the art over time. Many public art programs will renovate and refurbish a piece of public art so people can keep interacting with it. This can serve as education for the artistic process.

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Public art can also be functional. Below, you’ll see a set of bike racks that spell out the name of the community (Frederick, MD) in sign language.

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Make it picture perfect! Your community is a work of art so set up a spot where residents and tourists alike can get a great shot.

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The only limit to public art is your creativity. Think about what is special about your community and how you can translate that into art. Think about your values (inclusion, sustainability, etc.) and how you can incorporate them into your public design projects. Share with us how you are working to integrate art into your community!

Photo Credit (Image 1): New York Foundation for the Arts

Photo Credit (Image 2): Iowa City Press-Citizen

Photo Credit (Image 3): Vancouver is Awesome

Photo Credit (Image 4): City of Yarra

Photo Credit (Image 5): Downtown Frederick Partnership

Photo Credit (Image 6): Main Street Maryland

Photo Credit (Image 7): Alta