There are 7.25 billion people who inhabit this planet — 7.25 billion people who have opinions — 7.25 billion people who view life through their own personal lens. It comes as no surprise, then, that all of us — all 7.25 billion people — view art, and its value in our everyday lives, from our own perspective, our own experiences, our own knowledge base. Performing, visual, literary and the cultural arts are subjective — there is no right or wrong way to make, create and/or experience them. Form and content can be distinguished and identified, but the feelings that an artwork elicits are as individual as we are.
Serving only a small fraction of the earth’s population (about 465,000 in Clinton, Eaton and Ingham Counties), the Arts Council of Greater Lansing’s work encompasses supporting, strengthening and promoting a rich arts and cultural environment. And while the majority of our work involves the professional development and capacity of artists and arts/cultural leaders, some of our most profound and insightful work happens when communities embrace creativity and innovation through public art installations.
An important reference document summing up the value of public art has been published by Americans for the Arts Public Arts Network. It reads:
Public art does something that neither a public space without art nor even a museum with all its art can do: it can capture the eye and mind of someone passing through our public spaces. It can make us pay attention to our civic environment; it can encourage us to question what’s around us. Much of our newly built environment lacks the resonance of history or reflection of civic ownership, which makes residents proud of where they live. Carefully conceived public art installations and environments, rich with connections to our history, the natural world or the ephemeral quality of life, help make places of meaning within a community. Art can celebrate the qualities that make one place different from another. The best of public art can challenge, delight, educate and illuminate. Most of all, public art creates a sense of civic vitality in the cities, towns and communities we inhabit and visit.
There is no doubt that the capital region is thriving and dynamic. We are fortunate that our community has so many talented and creative artists, passionately pursuing their individual and collective interests in music, visual art, theatre, dance, film, and literature. We are fortunate that our arts and cultural institutions create ways for residents and tourists alike to engage and celebrate in the unique and authentic characteristics. We are fortunate that our business, municipal and economic development leaders invest dollars to support and install public art and recognize the aesthetic and economic benefits they provide.
The Arts Council of Greater Lansing is dedicated to seeing more public art installed and is invested in making this happen through the Cultural Economic Development Plan. We are fortunate to have several local, regional and statewide grants available through numerous agencies to help make it all possible, including Lansing’s “Sense of Place” program, our regional economic development partner, LEAP (Lansing Economic Area Partnership) and Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs mini-grants.
Let’s keep investing in public art. Let’s leave a legacy of cultural amenities in the capital region that can be enjoyed and nurtured by current and future generations. Public art is in the eye of the beholder. We won’t all love it…we won’t all dislike it, but we reserve the right to like or dislike based on our opinions and who we are as humans. And whether we like it or not, it shouldn’t mean that we stop putting art on public display. In the end, if any form of art helps us express our values, leads to higher civic engagement, creates dialog, conversation and discussion, and unites us regardless of ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, profession, or age — then, I think, we all come out winners.