Sunday, January 22, 2012

The role of art in community


"Art is anything you can get away with." -Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media (1964)
Art is the spice enlivening the meat and potatoes of our built environment. It directs the conversation, draws our attention to things we might otherwise ignore, and helps us understand who we are.
That goes for the art we keep in our houses as well as the public art that graces parks, and the murals that adorn the sides of buildings.
The distilled effort and focused intention made real creates something unique, conversation-worthy, and valuable.
Art provides a physical artifact documenting the same focused intention that makes us appreciate watching someone sink a long putt, dance ballet, or conduct a symphony orchestra. Even if you don't like golf, ballet, or the orchestra, you still recognize the focused effort that goes into finessing the performance.
The art you put on your walls is more than just decoration. It's an expression of who you are, how you see yourself, and how you want others to see you.
Public art acts the same way in helping us define our identity as a community. Between public art, the nature of the public space, and the architecture of the buildings we inhabit, it directs what we care about in our community subtly and constantly.
Take an interest in the public art. Understand the message. There's a marked difference between the communities adorned with statues of the supreme leaders you might see in communist China, the religious art across europe during the renaissance, and the abstract sculptures or decorated cows you might see on the streets of Calgary.
Public art is a form of mass media that is more primal than TV or newspapers. It becomes part of the community and helps direct the discussion.
Support your local artists. The vision, commentary, self-concept and vitality that they add to the local community are difficult to obtain any other way. The value may not be immediately apparent, but try to imagine a community without it.


You might also like:
Why Decoration is Relevant
What do we care about?
Small Town Feel


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