Art is an important means of expression. Some people say that this need is what separates us from the animals. Most people do art projects in elementary school, learning about shape, texture and color. Parents proudly display their efforts on the wall or go into school to see their achievements. These paintings etc. help to develop the imagination and build confidence. It’s a great way for kids to learn about the world around them. Larger, communal work also teaches them the value of working in a team.
Unfortunately, most people leave art behind, as they get older. They become the audience for the professional artists. Very often, art projects are done as public art. Installing art in public spaces often causes controversy. Tastes vary so much and some people resent art, which has been funded with public money. Likes and dislikes change with generations too. The abstract, concrete sculptures of the 1960s have largely fallen out of favor. The best public art is the sort that won’t look outdated in the future. Usually, once art projects are introduced, a town is stuck with them.
Trafalgar Square in London was the focus of an interesting exercise recently. It commissioned artists to make sculptures, which stood on temporary plinths. The exhibits kept changing, so everyone saw something they liked and didn’t have to live permanently with something that they despised.
In America, one of the most prolific artists to use public space is Claes Oldenburg. His trademark is to sculpt everyday objects and present them on a huge scale. His art projects include a giant button, a lipstick and a pair of binoculars. Anthony Gormley is famous in the UK for his public art, namely the Angel of the North. This huge structure stands on a hill near a major road, its wings outstretched as if to welcome motorists on their way into Newcastle. People can park their cars and walk up to the base of the sculpture to see it in close up.
Sculpture Trails and Sculpture Parks are also popular. Some of them are designed to entertain children and encourage them to have fun with art projects. One trail in the UK is in a forest and all the art is made from wood materials. This includes xylophones and percussion instruments, which the public is allowed to hit. It’s good to have art outside the normal environment of a gallery. Hands on art is great too, reminding us of the liberation we felt when we messed about with paint and bits of clay all those years ago at school.