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Art Goes Public : Beyond the Numbers

Updated: Jul 29, 2020

The rise in popularity for public art projects has pushed the definitions of what public art is as well as the boundaries of what forms it can take. In cities big and small, public art has moved on from murals and sculptures to the point that is now considered a vital element in any public space, indoor or outdoor. Projects can be big or small, from building-sized murals to yarn-bombing in parks (or an entire bridge, like they did in Pittsburgh!).

Digital Canopy at the Lit Brothers Building, Philadelphia, PA. Local artists contributed to this ever-changing piece.

Advances in technology have resulted in some spectacular installations playing with video and light. Public art is increasingly interactive, encouraging the audience to play, climb, dance, take selfies and videos. Some projects even require the participation of the audience, such as Candy Chang's “Before I Die” mural, which invites viewers to record their bucket list wishes directly on the mural. It's found in over 60 countries around the world.

"The Horses" by Jean-Marie Appriou in Central Park, Manhattan, NY.

No matter what the scale or setting, public art can deal with serious themes like poverty, politics, food security, the environment, and so much more. Every piece has its own unique voice, giving it the power to make people engage, think and even shift their perspective.

Public Art Is:

Valuable: Economic value aside, accessible art projects in public view have great social and cultural value. It encourages connections between people from different walks of life. Pieces that include contributions from community members and passers-by can foster both connection and empathy among viewers.

Colorful: What’s better than a splash of color in a grey cityscape? Bright pops of color can transform an alley, a building, a garden in unexpected ways. The joy of finding color and creativity in unexpected places has a positive effect on our moods and serves to elevate everyday experiences in urban areas.