Issues And Topics in Public Art
Functional Art vs Stand Alone Art and "Plop Art":
While a sculpture in an office plaza can serve as a landmark, or a painting prominently placed in a reception area can offer a welcoming respite to a visitor, Public Art can, and in Tampa, IS, much more. In several projects, the Public Art program is taking an integrated approach whereby the Public Art component is incorporated into the design of the facility. This allows for unique partnerships that enhance the facilities with integral, and personal design elements. Budget dollars go further, and maintenance costs decrease. Recent commissions include signage, windows, floors, and seating.
Public Art, like art exhibitions in museums, or architecture, is always open for free interpretation. However, sometimes the viewer's experience is further enriched when interpretative information is provided. Resource information such as how the object was made, what technologies were used, how and where the artist may have chosen images, and how the site and placement of the object may be relevant all enhance the experience. Signage alone cannot possibly cover all the meanings in every Public Art work. The Tampa Public Art Program is currently developing downloadable lesson plans that will be available on the city of Tampa's website. These lesson plans will allow teachers, students, and interested citizens to learn more about the artist, the artwork (its context and/or meaning), and its relevancy to related concepts. The Public Art Program recognizes that strong arts education builds a school climate of high expectation, discipline, and academic rigor that attracts businesses relocating to our community.
Public Art in Historic Districts/Historic Preservation:
Issues regarding Public Art in historic districts can be complex and passionate. Questions, such as: Can Public Art serve to preserve the identity of a neighborhood or district, or does it influence the community's sense of history, thereby changing "Public history"? What about the sides of the story that have gone untold, and have recently become known? How are the multiple perspectives equally represented? While landmarks of past generations typically were dedicated to patriotic sentiments of an unequivocal sort, contemporary understandings of history provoke a more complex set of emotional responses that the best Public Art works have the capacity to encompass. So too, the tradition of using bronze plaques to mark places as historically significant has none of the power of art that make places memorable. Curators and interpreters can make history coherent, but artists are needed to establish the presence of the past in the urban landscape. The Tampa Public Art Program makes every effort to bring thoughtful, engaging, and meaningful artwork to every project, and recognizes that historic properties generate significant interest by multiple groups. Recent commissions by the Program include the 7Th Ave. Streetscape, functional seating for the Streetcar, and a clock tower for Union Station (not yet installed).
Public memorials present visual queues that define a community's history. No longer is there one history over which a dominant culture has hegemony, but many histories, each with its own stories of achievement, sacrifice, and pain. Public Art Programs that once resisted commemorative projects have begun to undertake projects that tell some of these untold stories and begin to redress centuries of neglect. Other relevant issues regarding memorials: selection processes, need for critical distance and interpretation, trends in memorials over the past decades (living and/or healing vs awe-inspiring), involvement of victims families, etc.