Updated: Mar 24
When a community plays an active role in the creation of public art, it fosters a strong sense of unity and encourages citizens to be more engaged. Engaged citizens care for their community and treat it respectfully. Art elicits a different reaction from every viewer. In any community, there will be people that support the arts, and those that question the value of the project. Inviting the community to participate in the public art making process, allows for the voice and the opinions of the area to be heard, and helps residents take ownership of the art and the public space that it is in.
Often when we apply for public art projects hosted by community organizations, we will see a mention of the desire to have community participation in the project. This can mean different things to different people, and it is important to inquire about what the artist selection panel has in mind when offering this vague request. The following are a few examples of ways to foster community participation in the public art process.
While to some, public art may seem to just appear overnight, there is often months, if not years worth of coordinating and planning done prior to installation. Most well-run projects have selected or appointed an art panel/committee to guide the project to achieving its goals.
Members of the community can help make selections for this art committee or join the art committee themselves to have their voices heard. Once the committee is established, they can conduct a survey within the community to gather information about what the community would be most receptive to adding to their public spaces. Members of the community can also play an essential role in the street art process by donating their walls for potential installation of art.
In this case, all that is expected of the artist is to be open and receptive to the desires of the community in the creative process. Generally we see themes mentioned in the call-for-artists, so that artists know the creative direction before applying. Examples of these that we see most often are: “past, present, future”, “a bright future for our town”, “diversity and inclusivity”, “the spirit of the town” and so on.
With the guidance of the art committee, the artist can host a talk about their process and background to inform and educate the community regarding street art and their process as an artist. If this is desired, it should be made clear in the call-for-artists. Some artists will shy away from public speaking, but others may embrace it. We have also seen art calls in which the committee will pair up an apprentice muralist with the professional muralist hired as a form of local artist enrichment and growth. Artists: In this situation be sure to discuss with the committee the responsibility of insurance/liability of the apprentice.
Hands on Participation
Inviting community members to roll up their sleeves and help paint the mural is what comes to most people’s mind when they think of participating in the public art process. This sort of event can be a wonderful way to foster community an
d adoption of the arts program, but is not a great fit for every situation.
During such an event, the artist must switch roles from artist to event coordinator. While the many hands on the wall may seem like it will make painting go faster, in our experience this slows down the process. That being said, these events can be wonderful experiences when coordinated correctly. To see our tips for a successful group painting event, please click here.
To read more about the power of community participation in the public art process, we have gathered a few links for you below: