Courtesy Bmore Media – Everyone has a favorite. It might be “Common Threads” by Meg Seligman, where neighborhood youth appear to pop out of a stories-high mural in Philadelphia. Or it might be the City of Asylum’s “house publications” — a series of rehabbed houses in Pittsburgh’s Northside that are decorated with text by exiled artists-in-residence. Or it could be the 20 murals by Michael Owen that feature hands spelling out the word love as part of the Baltimore Love Project.
At one time the province of select sculptors like Alexander Calder, whose massive kinetic pieces grace public spaces in New York and Chicago, public art is increasingly an interactive, community-based experience. A focus on “social practice,” or engaging local communities in creating change through art, is borne out in public art pieces that are as thought-provoking as they are aesthetically pleasing.
It should come as little surprise that in the era of Facebook, Twitter and the 24/7 conversation, public art is morphing into a tool for community engagement.
“Public art’s mission is to engage people in unexpected ways in unexpected places,” says Kemi Ilesanmi, director of The Laundromat Project in New York City. “Instead of living in rarefied galleries, public art meets people where they happen to be and, in doing so, brings them something delightful, thought-provoking and engaging. It makes people take note of their surroundings in a different way, talk to one another and make a connection.”
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