A Case for Public Art

Public art, yay, or nay?  Well the people over at the Dirt Blog recently made the case for public art by pointing to the cost-effective way in which it drives economic revitalization.  Indeed, art work has the potential to improve quality of life, promote livability, and create positive workplace environments.  Yet, while art has its strengths, the debate about its value still lingers. 
There’s still a raging debate over whether art has more intrinsic or instrumental value.  Intrinsic value relates to the aesthetic value of any work of art, its own value as a piece of individual expression. Instrumental value relates to the ability of art to educate, create jobs, increase real estate value, build citizens, increase tourism, and provide other benefits. (Dirt Blog)
Below are a few examples of some controversial art projects.  What’s your take on their intrinsic and instrumental value?
Photo: BBC News
Back in 2010, an illuminated river art project got the boot in part because many thought it was silly.  When artwork goes public it invades people’s space and challenges their thoughts.  Jonathan Jones of the Guardian said last year that those who campaign against public artworks, as in Wales recently, promote a mindless, cultureless vision of Britain.  Just recently the Governor of Maine ordered the removal of a mural depicting the state’s labor history.  Governor LePage argued that the mural was one-sided and out of line.  Opponents said the mural held historical value.
Photo: San Francisco Chronicle
Just a couple weeks ago, the City of Los Angeles ruled that a mural painted on the property of a homeowner was considered advertising and needed to be removed.  The project was originally commissioned to high school students as way to support young artists.
Photo: NoHoartsdistrict.com
Then finally there is Banksy.  His existence is shrouded in secrecy with his artwork generating tremendous buzz.
While the lines are often blurred between intrinsic and instrumental values, perhaps a distinction also needs to be drawn between street art and public art?  Is there a difference?  I tend to think of public art as murals depicting a place, season, or iconic image related to a location.  So what is it? Is street art vandalism, graffiti, or public art?  Additionally, why does public art evoke so much angst, or is it overblown because of  a few case examples?
Read On:
The Many Benefits of Public Art
Public art? Not in my back yard
Maine governor attacks public art as “one-sided”
Commissioned Mural Painted Over After City Claims the Art is Advertising
Banksy Street Art
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