Public Art in the Midwest

"It's not art for art's sake. It's an organic part of the community, meant to be interacted with." 
- Mary Altman, public-arts administrator for the city of Minneapolis.

Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis, Des Moines and St. Paul, to name a few midwest cities, are all investing in art to decorate, beautify and enrich public spaces such as parks and transit systems. Josh Collins, Communications Manager for the Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority explained in an interview with the Star Tribune, "Public art is about making a space special and memorable."

And that stands out with people. "It gives people a sense of community and pride. They're not just walking through some place. They're walking through a great place they'll want to come back to and tell their friends about," said Collins. And that is crucial because it takes public art from something that is simply enjoyed to something that contributes to the economy in tourist dollars.

To add to the appeal of art, a new movement to incorporate new art into its enviroment by working with locals and the history of the place, rather than so called "plop" intallations that drop pieces without any connection to the community, is taking hold. This approach makes the creative works a part of the community immediatly.

Not all municipalites and local governments, especially in the current economy, are able to put any of their budget towards this sort of project. But Jack Becker, Director of Forecast Public Art, a St. Paul based nonprofit, argues "'Public art' doesn't necessarily mean public dollars, however -- only that the art ends up in a public space." Projects are funded by community donations, coorporate sponsorship, and factored into budgets for new infrastucture projects like bridges and trains, many of which are at least in part paid for with federal dollars.

The best news of all? This trend toward increasing public art is not only in the midwest. A great number of communities in a multitude of states are working to beautify their public spaces using art that is integrated into the fabric of their communities. Keep an eye never know when a new piece of public art will make an appearance on your morning commute!


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