Public Art: Some Thoughts

The concept of doing public art has been coming up a lot in my life lately. Outside the project I’m starting, I’m doing work outdoors in one of my classes, probably doing it again later in the same class, and one of the speakers at my convocation was well known for her art landing on the boundary between installation and performance. Anyway, the subject has been on my mind a lot.

I was thinking, yesterday, that there are probably some basic guidelines that ought to be followed. I was jotting them down for my own sake and thought, what the heck, I should throw them up online and hope that they inspire some others.

First, some restrictions:

  • The work should be non-permanent. Very non-permanent. Chalk, in most cases, is probably about the most permanent you can get without getting permission. If you can work in loose dirt, sand, snow, posters, etc, I’d have to think that is even better. Of course, if you can get permission to do something more permanent, well, enjoy the opportunity!
  • The work should be – I’m struggling for the right word – non-offensive. A lot of people will disagree. Art should often be challenging. However, I’d say there is a fine line between challenging and intentionally hurtful. This goes double when you’re working on someone else’s property. If you get arrested for vandalism, you were probably going too far. Probably.

Now then, the goals!

  • Make it habitual. This is a big one I want to do. Make it every time you have a minute. When you wait for a bus, draw something on the ground. Arrange some sticks. I don’t know what you should do. But the more habitually you do it, the more places you’ll do it. The more places you, the more places people will see it, and the more they will learn to look for it.
  • Aim to beautify. Art can be very meaningful, it’s true, but I feel like we’re pounded with meaning all the time, in the form of ads, instructions, and warnings. Draw something just because it is fun or beautiful. That’s a great meaning in and of itself, isn’t it?
  • Speaking of instructions and warnings, try at all times to not create any public art which could be confused with official instructions. Even if the worst you do is waste someone’s time (and you could do a lot worse) it’s still counter-productive.
  • Be anonymous. I know many people would disagree about this. It seems to me, though, that it should be about the art, and if you’re good enough to become “known”, you’ll be known by your style.

Of course, as with any rules, it’s hardly even put down when I find an objection to it. I recall (though sadly can’t find) an artist who placed fake instructional stickers in airplane lavatories which warned not to flush over major population centers. I can’t in good conscience say that is a bad thing.

Go draw something!


One Response to “Public Art: Some Thoughts”

  1. Reclaiming Public Space « The Sens-Dep Experience Says:

    […] suppose I find this especially cool because it ties in with my recent post about public art.  Today, one of my art class canvased the sidewalk outside the art building with chalk designs. It […]

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