Susan Weiler, FASLA, OLIN, made a successful appeal at the 2012 Aslas Annual Meeting on Landscape Art and Architecture that “public art matters”. In a review that stretched from the early history of American public art in Philadelphia, from imaginative examples around the country and then back to an exciting modern project in Philadelphia, Penny Balkin Bach, Fairmount Park Art Association; Marc Pally, public art consultant; Janet Echelman, one of the most interesting public artists working today; and Weiler has traveled to audiences where public art has been, where it can be directed, and why it is always important.
For Bach, public art has a unique place in the art world. Compared to large gallery exhibitions, public art is often underestimated, as is landscaping. But there’s a lot of popularity: “It’s free. There are no tickets. People don’t have to dress. You can watch it alone or in a group. It is open to everyone.
Community art can also be connected to other communities. According to Bach, studies have examined the economic developmental benefits of art, but only recently have more extensive studies been conducted on the effects of art on the spatial knowledge of society. The soul of the Knights Foundation’s community initiative explored approx. 43,000 people in 43 cities and stated that ‘social supply, openness and hospitality’ and, above all, ‘the aesthetics of the place – art, parks and green spaces’ are higher than the ‘engine’ uniting education, security and the local economy. In fact, the same story can happen locally in Philly: According to a study of locals, public art was the city’s second most popular activity before walking and biking.
The Fairmount Parks Art Association – renamed the Association for Public Article because of its new broader national jurisdiction – was founded in 1872. At the time, along Benjamin Franklin Parkway, sculptor William Rush, possibly the original American public artist, was first hired to create art in public spaces in the United States. Then, as now, “public art was seen as a link to the collection” as people went around. In this case, this tie was a decorative fountain designed for the public. And so, as today, Bach said, public art is controversial. The statue’s marble striking nymphs ’striking dress caused a bit of a“ scandal ”.
Bach had a lot of kind words to Rush, now known as “the father of public art, the first artist to design and sell public spaces.” He understood that public spaces are the result of “collaboration between many fields of design and art that anticipates the future direction of public art.”
The Arts Association was founded before the great centenary of Philadelphia and has taken many artistic initiatives to make the event a success. Barthold’s arm in front of the Statue of Liberty was on display and served as one of the most important prints. The group has always worked with the best artists of all time to ensure they are contemporary in their missions. Bach said, “We are taking a leap with the artists and ordering the art of our time. In 1908, the group commissioned Remington’s largest bronze statue. Today, this site has written a site-specific poem on the Schuykill River. Another project called artist Ed Levinen’s Pennypack on the Pennsylvania Park Trail will help enliven this trail.
Bach also had to discuss “outside of public art,” what happens when he gets there. As an example, he cited Pepo’s Osorio, a pavilion at the Latin Cultural Center with historical images of the people of the community. Today, children in the neighborhood take pictures of themselves with their ancestors. Another project, Common Land, in the footsteps of a burnt church, held a wedding just a week after the opening. Although these works have become part of their community, Bach says the group still has a long way to go to ensure that all works remain relevant in their community and are not “orphans”. “We need to keep the stories of these works of art alive. This includes preservation – to ensure that the work remains in good condition – and an interpretation of the art for contemporary audiences.