Post Covid public art is more important than ever - Studio GL
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Post Covid public art is more important than ever

Public art is one of the most accessible formats of expression for artists – a highly visible gift to inspire and challenge the public, all free to experience. In a city awakening from COVID-19 restrictions, innovative and exciting public art proposals provide an attractive focus as we emerge from lockdowns and re-engage with our friends and communities in outdoor public settings that are safe and enlivened.

Like so many industries, the pandemic had an unprecedented impact on the art world, with traditional art galleries, museums and exhibitions closed for many months. While some artists may have been able to adapt to exhibit works online, the virtual medium rarely compares to experiencing an artwork in the flesh. There is now an opportunity to re-invest in local communities and local artists who have the power to create vibrant artworks that ignite the imagination of the public as we venture back into public spaces. 

The consecutive cancellations of Sculpture by the Sea and Vivid Sydney in 2020 and 2021 saw the loss of two of Sydney’s largest public art exhibitions. The anticipated return of these cultural institutions in 2022 will provide critical keystones in Sydney’s public art calendar, providing reminders that life in our cities and open spaces will also return and adding much needed economic dividends to the economy (the 2018 Vivid event was reported to contribute $173 million in tourism related spending to the NSW economy)1.

As we look across the globe for examples of safe and effective re-opening strategies, we can also look at international examples of public art being used as a spectacle and symbol for re-opening. Personally nothing captures this more clearly than the striking wrapping of the Arc de Triomphe in France by the late artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. This dramatic installation was unmissable for locals wandering through the streets of Paris and equally inescapable in social media feeds across the world.

All public art interventions, from small to large to monumental, all contribute to a more vibrant and engaging public domain. Whether it is a crowd of wooden spoons emerging in local parks painted by school kids or state funded art spectacles, public art can bring people back into the city and put a smile on all our faces.

  1. Destination NSW, 2019, https://www.vividsydney.com/
    Image by Jacques Gaimard from Pixabay

By Adam Natoli
Urban Designer