Out of the Gallery and onto the Streets: Public Art on the Rise

Banksy Mural, New Orleans - Street artist Banksy is known worldwise for his edgy, thought-provoking works in often dilapidated public spaces. Credit: "Banksy Ratgirl Artwork" by Infrogmation of New Orleans - Flickr: Banksy Ratgirl Artwork. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons Street Mural, Washington, D.C.- Murals DC is a collaboration aiming to revitalize blank walls within the community with and deter illegal graffiti. Credit: Dylan Giordano

Metro Stop Sign, Los Angeles, Calif. - Metro stations for the Expo Line in Los Angeles feature public art work indicative of the communities surrounding the station. This sign mosaic shows typical homes in South Central L.A., capturing an essence of the community that uses this station.
Metro Stop Sign, Los Angeles, Calif. – The Expo Line features public art indicative of the surrounding communities. This sign mosaic shows typical homes in South Central L.A., capturing an essence of the community that uses this station.

–by Dylan Giordano

Public spaces have been getting an aesthetic makeover with the emergence of public art throughout cities across the world.

This broad category of art encompasses a whole variety of different mediums that symbolize the public identity and redefine the public realm.

Traditionally, public statues, architecture, and murals sponsored by the government were seen as the primary forms of public art, embodying civic virtue and identity.

However, this concept has evolved significantly over the past half century, as public art has resurged in urban spaces, redefining the modern concept and purpose of public art and engaging community with a sense of identity, expression, and place.

Municipal Art

Banksy Mural, New Orleans - The famous street artist Banksy is known across the world for his edgy and thought-provoking works in often dilapidated public spaces. This mural is featured in an abandoned building in New Orleans. Freelance street artists can still be part of revitalizing a blank space and create an experience for passersby. Credit: "Banksy Ratgirl Artwork" by Infrogmation of New Orleans - Flickr: Banksy Ratgirl Artwork. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Banksy Mural, New Orleans – The famous street artist Banksy is known across the world for his edgy and thought-provoking works in often dilapidated public spaces. This mural is featured in an abandoned building in New Orleans. Freelance street artists can still be part of revitalizing a blank space and create an experience for passersby.
Credit: “Banksy Ratgirl Artwork” by Infrogmation of New Orleans – Flickr: Banksy Ratgirl Artwork. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Many cities across the U.S. have a “Percent for Art” policy, where public or private development projects pay a small percentage, commonly 1%, to fund and install public art, administered by local and state agencies.New York City has used the Public Art fund since 1977 to fund mosaics, murals, sculptures, station beautification, and many others across the city, breathing visual aesthetic into the public realm and giving citizens something to admire, be intrigued by, or engage with in some way.These urban art projects occupy various spaces typically in squares and plazas, pedestrian areas, main thoroughfares, and even buildings, serving as tourist attractions and signs to simple street furniture .Municipal art can help define a community through a visual theme that resonates with the identity of the place, making it distinct and memorable among visitors and residents.

Aside from typical beautification, these public programs and projects have helped revitalize run-down or formerly industrial areas by making them seem safer to visitors and more visually appealing. Some of these communities experience redevelopment as their streets become livelier with pedestrians and businesses, adding to the overall experience of a place.

Wynwood Walls, Arts District, Miami- The revitalized Wynwood Arts District has become a hub for art galleries and street art, where murals decorate the entire community. The Wynwood Walls is a space open to public, hosting a restaurant and several different murals and interactive art installations.  Credit: Julie Giordano
Wynwood Walls, Arts District, Miami- The revitalized Wynwood Arts District has become a hub for art galleries and street art, where murals decorate the entire community. The Wynwood Walls is a space open to public, hosting a restaurant and several different murals and interactive art installations.
Credit: Julie Giordano

Street Art and Neighborhood Identity

Freelance street art does not fall in the traditional definition of government-sponsored public art, but has been a strong part of neighborhood visual facelifts and public expression.

Though often associated with vandalism and graffiti, street art has become popularized in visual culture as a common feature in urban settings.

Murals have been popping up across cities as popular art forms giving life to formally blank walls with a variety of different subjects, from community-themed motifs and political art to abstract visuals.

Street art has pushed its way into pop culture, with several street/graffitti artists becoming famous worldwide for their works such as Banksy, who has created many high-profile, yet controversial public stencils and sculptures.

Communities also come together to engage in their beautification through commissioning or creating street art.

Street Mural, Columbia Heights, Washington, D.C.- Murals DC is part of a collaboration between the Department of Public Works, the Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and Words Beats & Life, Inc. to revitalize blank walls within the community and deter illegal graffiti. The program offers  the opportunity to learn the art of aerosol painting while creating murals that reflect the culture and history of D.C.’s neighborhoods.
Street Mural, Columbia Heights, Washington, D.C.- Murals DC is part of a collaboration between the Department of Public Works, the Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and Words Beats & Life, Inc. to revitalize blank walls within the community and deter illegal graffiti. The program teaches the art of aerosol painting while refelcting D.C.’s culture and history.

The Wynwood Arts District in Miami, once a low-income industrial neighborhood, has recently transformed into a mecca of street art and galleries. Artists moved into the derelict district and began painting the blank buildings, eventually creating a community famous for its unique street art scene.

Municipalities have also sponsored street art-style works in special districts and redevelopment areas, such as Washington, D.C.’s the Murals DC Project, which aims to revitalize neighborhoods, deter illegal graffiti and boost local businesses while inspiring civic pride.

Ranging from permanent monuments and murals to ephemeral installations and street furniture, public art embodies both the mainstream and the unusual. As a creative and aesthetic outlet, it entertains and inspires the passersby who view, use, or explore it, forming an essential public good that helps us reimagine what we can experience in the public realm.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

3 thoughts on “Out of the Gallery and onto the Streets: Public Art on the Rise

  1. Sometimes public art seems to go unnoticed as we rush through our day to day activities. It takes people like you to open up our eyes to what is all around us, and to help us appreciate the talent that surrounds us, and to get a gist of the many stories the artists are trying to tell. They say, “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” – it is so indeed. Every city has its beauty, and it is through this art that we come to realize that places we may have once thought unattractive and dangerous, can actually turn into lively and appealing spots, not only to tourists, but locals who may have avoided such places. Such is the power of art and color. Very nice article. Thank you.

  2. It is important to note that Public Art of all genres has been encouraged by all civilizations from ancient times. The best part of the art is the reflection of the culture of each civilization. Kudos to you for your recognition of the increase of this cultural identity and movement which serves to enhance the landscape of our urban centers. Art brings color to the surfaces we traverse in our daily journeys and serves to stimulate our senses. Encouragement of government and private resources to continue this movement is a wise move and leaves our mark for the generations of artists to come! Kudos to you and to the artists who brighten our lives.

  3. Thank you for taking the time to show us this kind or art that many times we do not have to see and enjoy. It is nice to see that young people take the time show this kind of art that you find every where but most of the time goes unnoticed.

Leave a Reply