Public Art Really Matters


Public art is any sculpture, painting, drawing, and alike that is displayed so that it can be accessed by the general public free of cost. A broader definition of public art includes street musicians and street performers. Public art is financed privately and by municipalities. The use of taxpayer money on public art installations prompts some to wonder if public art really matters?

Public Art Matters Economically

Located in North Adams, Massachusetts MASS MoCA covers 13 acres that include a formerly abandoned building. That building has in part been converted into an art installation. Since its opening MASS MoCA has generated $15 million in revenue for North Adams and increased the value of surrounding properties by $14 million.

In conjunction with Partners in Tourism, The Travel Industry Association of America studied the impact the arts have on tourism. The study concluded that annually 65{fda084ef386c084959865e6ab72412d5a1db44b49be98ebbeb11f6f3a376175a} of tourists make cultural activities a part of their travel itinerary. Besides providing work for artist public art creates work opportunities in fields like advertising and promotion. In North Texas, 53,000 people owe their livelihood to the arts including public art Dallas Texas.

The Joint Legislative Committee on Cultural Affairs researched the connection between its cultural venues and an area’s attractiveness to businesses. Ninety-nine percent of companies surveyed stated that the number of cultural attractions influences their decision to operate in a community.

Public Art Matters Environmentally and Politically

Public art can be used to draw attention to social issues. A case in point is artist Mel Chin’s “Fundred Dollar” initiative. The campaign aims to get Congress to finance the removal of lead from the soil in New Orleans. The soil is so plumbeous that 30{fda084ef386c084959865e6ab72412d5a1db44b49be98ebbeb11f6f3a376175a} of the Big Easy’s children suffer from lead poisoning.

In biodiesel propelled armored car Chin travels the US converting buildings into “bank vaults”. Area children then visit the vaults and once inside create their own version of a Fundred Dollar bill. Ultimately, the “money” will be transported to Washington DC to make the public and lawmakers aware of the contamination issue in New Orleans and solicit $300 million in clean-up money from Congress.

Public Art Matters Educationally

During World War 2 Americans were encouraged to support the war effort by growing their own food in Victory Gardens. As a public art project to promote knowledge of US history, self-sufficiency, and urban agriculture a San Francisco chapter of the Future Farmers of America has resurrected the Victory Garden concept. The tools include a bicycle wheelbarrow hybrid and a shovel that doubles as a pogo stick. The site of the garden San Francisco’s City Hall has realized an increase in visitors since the project started.

Public Art Matters Physically

Medical Facilities have noticed a direct correlation between art and health. Hospitals have found that displaying art featuring positive imagery has a soothing effect on patients. Images taken from nature seem to be especially beneficial in aiding recovery. Studies have found that displaying art in medical facilities reduces physical discomfort and accelerates healing.

Public Art Matters Psychologically

By taking part in the creation of public art (participatory public art) individuals who previously felt isolated from their neighbors developed a greater sense of belonging. The Murals Arts Porch Light Program in Philadelphia comingled people with and without emotional issues. A reduction in crime suggests that participants who suffered emotional issues came away from the project better able to sublimate their negative impulses. Those without mental health issues came away from the project with a greater understanding of and tolerance for the mentally ill.