A Public Art Community

The presence of public art within a community can be powerful, inspirational, and influential. For more information about public art and why it matters in communities, see below.

Since 2010, Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center has annually offered free public art exhibitions by Michigan artists with the support of the City of Lansing and partners. These activities draw a significant, wide ranging from the Lansing area and beyond. Projects have ranged from sculpture exhibits, to a mobile art scavenger hunt, to revitalization of dilapidated newspaper kiosks.

During the months of June, July, and August of 2018, Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center will be working in conjunction with the City of Lansing’s Parks and Recreation department to revitalize and activate 10 sites along the Lansing River Trail with temporary, site-specific public art. The River Trail has miles of beautiful, scenic trail that weaves through the city with an estimated 50,000 visitors estimated for this project. For more information about Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center’s new project, click here.

What is public art?

For the art community, public art can represent a way to get everyone involved with art and to make art a part of everyday life. Public art is planned and executed in a public space, and it is not defined to any specific medium. Typically, public art pieces are implemented in outdoor spaces that are widely accessible to the public.

What is site-specific art?

Site-specific art describes a piece (or pieces) that were designed and commissioned for a specific place. These artworks can simultaneously activate a space while inspiring a community conversation. In some cases, site-specific art can be interpreted in ways that are unanticipated by the artist and the community that implemented them.

Temporary vs. Permanent

Public art can be temporary or permanent. In some cases, permanent art becomes a part of the community’s identity. Permanent public art fixtures require constant maintenance and upkeep, and over time they may become less related to the community around them. Temporary art can pop up in certain places in a community, both expected and unexpected, as a way to involve people in mobile art and to activate a space. In some cases, the disappearance of temporary art fixtures after a few weeks or months sparks conversations about how to re-enliven a space or a community.

“Temporary site-specific work can be particularly effective when it speaks to specific spaces and relevant social issues in a moment in time, reacting to the current climate and culture of that community. In essence, temporary public art has the capacity to reflect the hearts and minds of people in its environment. Its passing nature can resonate with viewers, positively impacting their memories of place and time,” says Katrina M. Daniels, Lansing Art Gallery’s Exhibitions and Gallery Sales Director.

What artists are commonly associated with public art?

Alfredo Jaar:

 As an artist, Alfredo Jaar “staged politicized interventions in public spaces that invite the Western world to consider the grave consequences of its frequent indifference toward suffering in the developing world.” As seen in his piece from 1987, A Logo for America, public art can motivate, inspire, and outrage the public into action on a particular issue or set of issues. Read more about Jaar and his work here: http://www.alfredojaar.net/

Richard Serra: 

As an artist, Serra works with large-scale assemblies of sheet metal. He is a minimalist artist known for his arcs, spirals, and ellipses that challenge the viewer’s perception of space. In the past, Serra had a famous example of public art that did not cohabitate well with the members of the community in which it was implemented. His Tilted Arc (1981-1989) in Federal Plaza in New York City was eventually removed after complaints arose surrounding its obtrusion of space and allowance for crime-inducing blind spots. The monumental piece was created to force people to view the plaza differently, but instead was perceived as a roadblock for sidewalk travelers.

Christo & Jeanne-Claude (pictured above): 

Christo and Jeanne-Claude were a couple that acted together as artists, implementing environmental works of art in grandiose scales. Their pieces, typically consisting of fabric implemented into or onto a space, were made for joy, beauty, and to inspire to ways of seeing popular landscapes in a community. You can read more about their work here: http://christojeanneclaude.net

Anish Kapoor:

 A contemporary sculptor, Kapoor is perhaps best known for his public art piece in Chicago, Cloud Gate (also known as “The Bean”). This particular piece is a spectacular example of a community rejoicing around a monumental installation of public art. It expands, warps, and reflects the Chicago skyline and gives passersby a different angle with which to view themselves, others, and the city.


 (pictured at top): Perhaps one of the most famous graffiti artists, Banksy is an anonymous artist based out of England. They act as a graffiti artist, a political activist, and a film director. Their art is darkly humorous and satirical, featured on streets, walls, and bridges throughout the globe. To read more about Bansky’s art, visit: http://www.banksy.co.uk

Alexander Calder:

 Calder was an American sculptor. He was most commonly known for his large, mobile-like sculptures that balanced or suspended shapes in a way that allowed them to move in response to touch or the wind. Some of Calder’s work can be found in Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Grosse Pointe in museum collections and as public works. For more, visit: http://www.calder.org/

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