The past few months brought drastic changes in our everyday life. Our homes have been turned into multipurpose spaces; our daily commute was cancelled. We went for more walks, discovered uncharted territories in our neighborhood. Statues have fallen, while murals have sprung. Art has also been at the forefront of conversations. Many find solace in painting rainbows, embellishing those non-descript spaces that became precious overnight.
Art, especially Public Art, the one you can see outdoors, for free, accessible to everybody, took on a new meaning. As we are moving into the very early days of the new normal, we measure how important the outdoors has become in our lives. That park, that street we walk on to get coffee simply to get out of the house. We want to enjoy our surroundings; they foster relationships; it makes us engaged with our communities. Sculptures have been scrutinized, many have been taken down their pedestal and will need to be replaced. Murals are being painted to pay homage, to get attention, to remember and to reflect our current time and struggles.
As outdoors is now playing a central role in our daily lives, cities turn into urban planning. Public Art takes many forms; murals, large-scale sculptures, installation, site-specific; it can stand alone or be part of a sculpture garden or a punctual event. It can be up in the air, perched in a tree, under your feet, standing next to you or inviting you in. It transpires the value of the artists that creates the project, the people who supported it and commissioned it. It reflects on what city, space or company wants to express about itself; that they are a place for creativity, a way to retain their creative classes, to engage with their communities. Art enriches life. The general expectation is that Public Art relates to time, reflects our stories, and is accessible to a broad and diverse public.
In the past 30 years or so, Public Art moved from grassroots to mainstream; projects are now almost expected to present it in one form or another. Art, and especially Public Art is becoming more and more understood as a value-added feature. It activates a city, a place. From old fashion monuments which were passive, new sculptures become a vessel. They are about activation and engagement, pushing deeper their social commitment. One good example of involving the public in the decision process is the 4Th plinth project in Trafalgar Square in London, UK. While there is a committee selecting the shortlisted, the public is invited to see the submission, give comments and vote, and take a step further in deciding what will throne at the top of the plinth left unused for more than 150 years.
It revitalizes, highlights, gives a second life and beautifies place – think of a mural under a viaduct – instant game changer. Urban furniture pops up overnight. Suddenly, it is alive, activated. It changes the perception of an overlooked area by which we walk thousands of times. We pay attention, and we want to experience it, sit on it and enjoy that place to a degree we wouldn’t connect with otherwise.
Partnering with the Partenariat du Quartier des Spectacles, Palais des Congrès in Montreal, Hullmark in Toronto or MIRA in Mexico, MASSIVart actively work towards bringing lively, festive, uplifting destinations infused art and design, contribution to enhancing the visual landscape as well as the spirit of the space. It transforms how we experience places, changes the way we interact, gives us a breather and cuts the monotonous. While its quantitative impact is harder to measure, it’s qualitative impact shows to be reliable. Public Art commands attention, attracts your gaze, gets you to look up from your phone, engage and sparks conversation.
It is a dialogue about the social fabric of our cities. The rewarding effects are numerous. On a human level: happier population, less stressful commute, mental health benefits, lower crime rate. From an economic perspective, it creates jobs for artists and more – someone needs to design, construct, install and take care of those projects. It requires materials that are more than often sourced locally. It also fosters tourism – let’s think of Prada Marfa in Marfa and how Marfa became a destination since Donald Judd decided to create some major permanent installations there. It creates a buzz, makes the city vibrant, promotes its competitive edge, lives for its innovative thinking – the vital signs are strong.
This is an occasion that building owners and real estate companies should take advantage of. It is part of our mission at MASSIVart to work with cities, real estates, promoters and developers to increase the presence of art in their projects that have a strong impact in how we navigate our cities. With the current movement for shopping local, it is time to rethink the offer and push further their entertainment and well-being in the infrastructures they are part of. To push the envelope and for companies to promote their values through their implication in daily life and enhancement of multipurpose public spaces. MASSIVart puts at the service of its partner actionable insights due to our years of experience in conceiving desirable destinations that create uplifting, and engaging spaces.
Public Art can also transform and re-activate older buildings, cover-up design mistakes, and mitigate sterile streetscapes or buildings’ effects. A mural can prevent graffiti from reoccurring, and vandalism decreases. A new installation contributes to foster conversations, to engage with the locals as well as the visitors.
It leads to thinking back to programs like the Federal Art Project that ran from 1935 to 1943 and which was part of the New Deal after the Great Recession. At its core, the goals of building morale, creating jobs and reducing crime. In times like now, when we need more than ever to move from generic experience to unique ones, when alternative narratives are needed, the ideas of creating a program or investing funds in inspiring people, in giving some a purpose while enriching our everyday life seem like the way to go.
MASSIVart’s vision is aligned with this thinking; we strongly believe in creating memorable art driven experiences that the communities in which they are delivered will want to live, revisit and share. We are proud to support and offer new possibilities to artists as well as giving back and working with other communities and partners in our common goal to foster a local cultural ecosystem which is deeply rooted in creating relevant experiences delivered in unexpected ways.
We can expect to see Public Art flourish as cities will rethink themselves for smaller gatherings, engage with their communities and regional visitors, and expand their outdoors, as we know this virus is here to stay. This summer shows us the power of standing together for what we believe in and being advocates for the changes we want to see in our communities.