The Importance of Public Art - Through Our Eyes

 "Flight Column" by Robert Gehrke   University of Montana Public Art

"Flight Column" by Robert Gehrke

 University of Montana Public Art

In a world where we are constantly surrounded by an onslaught of media sources and images, it is easy to forget why we should care about public art at all. What difference does it make if a community takes the time to seek after, install and care for public art? Well - here in Missoula, we think its a BIG deal. Here's why...

First & foremost, the City of Missoula has become quite a hub for artists and art related employment. According to Tom Bensen, Executive Director of ARTS Missoula,  "The National Center for Arts Research Study names Missoula as the 4th most vibrant mid-sized cities in the country, while the Arts and Economic Prosperity Report [by Americans for the Arts] reveals that our nonprofit arts sector is a $54 million industry, nearly three times that of communities our size.  The 1,913 FTE jobs in the nonprofit arts industry is a comparable number to those of other better known and more recognized employers, specifically the University of Montana and our two hospitals."

This data shows that the arts are important to Missoulians. The Public Art scene is an avenue for artists and community members to have an opportunity to show their work and be activley involved in this art community. Of course, Public Art is just a sector of this multi-channeled art atmosphere, but being able to see a sculpture on your daily commute, etc. begins that culture and conversation about the arts as a whole. For visitors to Missoula, it is an outward symbol of Missoula's values and priorities. Perhaps, this would persuade travelers to come back and visit us again! 

The foundation of Public Art is built on collaboration. The installment of work on public or private property requires loads of team-work, time, and agreement on an end goal. Public Art is also collaborative in the actual viewing of pieces. Art in open space requires viewers to participate in analyzing and experiencing a piece whether they signed up to do so or not. This kind of participation on all fronts is a community and society enhancing endeavor.

Not only is there a civic conversation brought to the table, but also a tangible economic benefit. The studies mentioned above [Arts Vibrancy Index & Arts & Economic Prosperity] very clearly announce that the arts mean business. Participation in arts events creates revenue for our community, government, & stakeholders while also employing a sizable chunk of our residents.

Lastly, Public Art presumably boosts the public's appreciation for art. For example, someone who has never stepped foot in a museum, happens to walk by an impressive sculpture. This experience allows the art piece to deliver messages, enhance creative thinking, or simply brighten this persons day. What's not to love?

Of course, there are infinite arguments as to the importance of Public Art. Here in Missoula, Montana we see direct benefits and regularly receive positive feedback from our public art programs. We believe that Public Art is important and we encourage the spread of artistic flow and creative thinking! 

Julie ArmstrongComment