What Happened to the Art in Public Art? Compromising a Civic Agenda

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Public art is often described as a mandated collaboration between artist and landscape architect, private developer, government, community representatives, architect, or other design professionals. However, art is fundamentally about the collaboration between our willingness and ability to attend and engage the work. This fundamental shift in the social role of the artist has transformed the professional field of public art in America.

This analysis will cleave the enigmatic difference between the process of creating a work of art and that of engaging in a formal public art process. It is critical for public art programs to ascertain whether they are successfully recognizing the reciprocal interaction between space forming and space contingent art because the creation of social space is distinct from the social relations that are spatially produced. Our understanding of this difference is of consequence to practitioners of public art because too frequently we establish the physical and cultural context for public art and then ask artists to bring us together in an inventive constellation that is rarely new and is plagued with familiarity. This paper offers strategic recommendations through which to locate the intersection of public art process and product, as well as identify the fault lines are that can rupture art.


Keywords: Public Art, Role of the Artist, Funding of Public Art, Government Commission Process, Public Participation Process
Stream: Arts Policy, Management and Advocacy
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Janet Kagan

Principal, Percent for Art Collaborative LLC
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA

Janet Kagan MBA, MA is a founding Principal of the Percent for Art Collaborative LLC, an interdisciplinary research and consulting group that brings together artists, government representatives, public art administrators, urban planners, historians, architects, and landscape designers to initiate and refine public art policies, projects, and programs. Janet has significant experience in strategic planning with established and emergent public art programs, and management of public art projects representing both artists and agencies. She has held positions in municipal government, local and statewide nonprofit organizations, and architectural and interpretive design firms. She serves on boards and committees of national and regional arts organizations; participates on artist selection panels and juries; and, pursues critical discourse about public art. She is a contributing writer to Public Art Review, Sculpture magazine, and other professional journals. In 2008, Janet was elected Chair of the Public Art Network (PAN) of Americans for the Arts. In addition to her current public art planning and design projects, she is producing a film about public art.

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