Public Art for the Public? : Attitudes, Community, Evaluation & Communication

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Konstvetenskapliga institutionen

Abstract: This thesis explores how Public Art involves the community and how Public Art Administrators view this involvement and how they communicate with the public. In extension, the analysis aims to explore how public art and related community engagement can be evaluated, and also proposes a simple evaluation tool. The analysis is based upon an examination of the four chosen Northern California Public Art Programs through comparing their Public Art Master Plans. In addition to analyzing the Master Plans, a survey was also sent out to all Program Managers with additional questions about their channels of communications, their web traffic, evaluation, their interactions with the local politicians, and how the COVID-19 pandemic had affected these aspects for them. The analysis also consisted of examining all the digital tools the Public Art Programs were utilizing; their social media, the social media context for each city, and their websites. The analysis is also based upon the theories by Jurgen Habermas in his work The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. His perspective is applied on the analysis of the general public and on the attitude among the profession on the community’s involvement in public art, and in extension, the evaluation of public art. The main take-aways from the analysis is how the community is being described and viewed in the Master Plans, and by program staff. It becomes obvious that the general attitude is that the general public does not understand Public Art, and that they need to be educated and informed about it. Three perspectives of Public Art appears among the profession: The insider perspective, with the view of the community as passive receivers, the multidimensional perspective with a more differentiated approach both seeing the intrinsic value but also the measurable values, and the critical perspective questioning what public art is and what value it has at all. All of these call for a need of evaluation in a systematic and credible way. Social media and other types of new media can also contribute to communication, community engagement and evaluation. Finally, Public Art and the development of cities are heavily intertwined, but the true impact of Public Art needs to be evaluated, since the art does not stand alone - instead it is dependent on implementation, community engagement and a vibrant city.

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