The Importance of Public Art

Published – Albion Prairie Post, September 2020

Public art is an essential aspect of the community as it adds significance to the aesthetic value of the culture and economy’s strength. It enables citizens and residents to acquire a sense of identity, pride, and belonging to the community. Moreover, historical events and the culture of a particular place is demonstrated through public art as it aims to reflect the collective thoughts, vision, and unique feel of a community. An artwork on historical events will hold snippets of society’s past and its future dreams. Therefore, public art can encourage the expression of the community’s state, expose conflict among the people, defines a physical space, and reflects on the community. Sculptures are an example of public art that is used widely by communities. Public art in sculptures affects society’s historical, social, technical, and political aspects.

Shifting Cultural Perspectives

The timing of the erection and removal of statues that initially held the basis of what the people supported or at least tolerated has a lot to say about the shifting cultural perspectives. People are of the notion and idea that sculptures do not need to be in the public space to show the historical context they represent in society. For many, the sculptures created during the late 19th-and early 20th century only represented a specific section of the American culture and not the entire community, thus why their impact on society has changed with time (CAA, 2017). With many people of color seeing the statues as perpetrators of continuing oppression and white supremacy, the public is shifting its outlook on the need to place museums’ statues instead. The work of art does not inspire negative and harmful attitudes within society. Additionally, with no critical dialogue presently surrounding the sculptures’ presence as before, placing the sculptures in exhibitions will still allow the public to engage and produce questions of their own about histories and their construction.

Consistencies Observed Globally

Across the globe, citizens in significant numbers witness toppling statues that once stood as embodiments of their past oppression and continuing humiliation. The most recent example is in the United Kingdom, where Edward Colston, a slave owner, was torn down. Additionally, only recently in India, statues used to denote imperial rulers were also removed (Bhargava, 2020). In the United States, people brought down more than a dozen statues due to controversies. Cities that do not allow removing the statues have them all marked with graffiti, with petitions and protests scheduled for their removal. Such forms of consistent removal of these figures in the public spaces happen in many different parts of the globe, with emphasis set to create societies that have a clear distinction on the positive monuments they should consider as their heritage.

How Statues Removal Reflect Freedom of Speech

The controversial removal of the sculptures reflects poorly on the freedom of speech. In the present day, society is clashing on the removal of specific sculptures that remind us more about our racist past and even going the extra mile of celebrating it. Although there are sculptures that are successfully removed from the public space, achieving this feat is due to contentious arguments on their removal (Warren, 2017). For there to be a controversial removal of a sculpture, it shows just how much the freedom of speech is limited. The federal court suggests that any controversial Confederate statuary comprises a protected symbolic address. Therefore, it is very frustrating when people consider a sculpture offensive but cannot have it removed. According to the federal court decision, being offensive is not enough to draw such sculptures under the First Amendment. However, the removal of high-profile sculptures is contested with protests from those seeking to keep them in place because the statues are only a form of heritage and not indications of hate. Therefore, this forces them to protest more since it is majorly through protests is when the government can listen to them.

The relation between sculptures and historical moments

Public art, such as sculptures, are a strong representation of history. They can convey achievements, symbolize a particular event or time in history, or commemorate an important historical figure. For instance, the statue of liberty in the Upper New York Bay signifies the American people’s freedom and independence from financial poverty, tyranny, and immigrants’ misery. It displays the country’s struggle for equal rights among all its people, the belief in democracy, and the fight for freedom. Moreover, the statue of liberty is a constant reminder of everyone’s right to equality, even at the brim of racial discrimination. It signifies the ability to fight for equal standing.

Furthermore, art is capable of revealing various cultural and societal beliefs and views. It provides insights into the level of interaction between the people in a society, the values, culture, religious beliefs, the economic prowess, and the behavioral tendencies of a community’s people (DeMarrais & Robb, 2013). For instance, in studying archaeology, the art used in the old times helped understand the nature of the communities who lived in the ancient towns. They drew the gods they revered, the cultural activities, and their means of livelihood(DeMarrais & Robb, 2013). Ancient Greek has ruins of kings and their gods’ statues, which helps historical research determine their way of life.

Moreover, most sculptures around the globe can be pegged to form an association with religion, for example, the Moai from Easter Island and the statue of Zeus at Olympia. The statues and other sculptures are a heritage to the community that develops it. Additionally, the historical sculptures show which aspect of their culture is more important to a specific society by determining what they chose to keep and preserve over the years. The artwork fosters intercultural understanding, political views of the society and provides a basis for cooperation.

In conclusion, the global (personal) perspective of the importance of sculpture, society in these changes, and the cultural sensitivity form an understanding of how sculptures present in the community have led to the shifting cultural perspectives. Global consistencies worldwide aim to remove all forms of oppressing statues and how the controversial removal of the statues reflects poorly on the peoples’ freedom of speech. However, the sculptures can still connect to historical moments of crisis and shifts in culture to reveal how they are efficient in culture and societies. Sculptures and artwork provide historical information and representation of the community’s beliefs and practices. Sculptures such as the Statue of Liberty display the values of equality and democracy in America, and so do other sculptures globally. Therefore art is not only a form of aesthetics but also a vivid representation of society.

Bhargava, R. (2020) “Statues as deeply contested heritage.” The Hindu. Accessed on 12 October 2020.
CAA, (2017) “Taking Down Statues and Public Art? Here’s what our Members Think”. College Art Association of America, Inc., Accessed on 12 October 2020.
DeMarrais, E., & Robb, J. (2013). “Art makes Society: an introductory visual essay.” Journal on world art. Accessed on 12 October 2020.
Warren, F. K. (2017) “Offensive Statues should be protected under First Amendment.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Accessed on 12 October 2020.