Tracking the intersection of art & public space
Recently we added a new set of artworks to the map at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. And that’s because I recently graduated from their art history master’s program, and they offer a (much-appreciated!) grant for graduate student projects. While in the program for the last two years, I’ve written about street art or public art for every assignment I could finagle a connection to, after spending the two years prior in San Francisco documenting that art on ArtAround. Why do some shared masterpieces cost cities hundreds of thousands while others are done for free—and often illegally? While I definitely believe there’s such a thing as vandalism, that’s not exactly what all graffiti is. The public space is messy, because who and what you find there is determined by who has the power to control it—and in a democracy, the people should technically be the ones with that power.
The intersection of art and public spaces—commissioned projects, illegal street art, and the changing laws governing those spaces—fascinates me, and it’s not something that’s easy to find out about in one place. So that’s why this site exists. I want to find out how the parts of a city with sanctioned commissioned public art differs from those with chaotic collaborative compositions; how a new art world is transforming visual art from an external object on a pedestal or behind glass, to a series of both familiar and surreptitious interactions embedded in the fabric of our routines; and finally how artists are working inside and outside these systems to both critique and celebrate in a way that’s accessible to all of us.
Turns out people actually like looking at art in their daily lives, even if they might not have time to learn about the trajectory of art history or counter-culture that brought it there. And if you don’t like the art in your community, that’s what ArtAround is for. Upload that work to the map and start a conversation about the kind of artwork you would like to see on your way to work. I’m trying to build a means through which we can access the artworks in our public spaces—both physically and statistically—and collectively express how we feel about them. Banksy’s canvases are sold for more than most traditional artists, but he could still be arrested every time he goes out to create a work that will inevitably be gobbled up by the art world he simultaneously mocks and exists within.
There’s some work I’ve come across where I honestly can’t tell if the person who created it took home a fine or a paycheck. The contradictions inherent in our public spaces need to be exposed, just as much as the cities like Melbourne and São Paulo need to be celebrated for proving there’s a way for communities and artists to transform every blank wall into a canvas.
And let’s watch our public spaces bloom together.