The Power of Public Art
Public art can surely enhance the aesthetics of a city, but it can also change lives — according to Jane Golden, executive director of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.
The Arthur Blank Foundation recently brought the dynamic Jane Golden to Atlanta through its Speaker Series to share her story about “The Power of Public Murals: It Ain’t About the Paint.” Ms. Golden talked about the power of public art in relation to community engagement and community development. She deftly illustrated how the mural arts program in Philadelphia has produced real change in disadvantaged communities.
“This was not art that was parachuted down from the sky or imposed on people. This is what is called today “co-creation, co-collaboration.” It was working together. And, it was really valuing the opinion of the people who were there.” – Jane Golden
At the event, the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) announced the launch of the Atlanta Regional Public Art Program. Inspired by the Philadelphia model, our regional public arts program is intended to commission and install public art of all kinds throughout the metro Atlanta region. This is an exciting moment for ARC and our region, as it marks the culmination of a year-long effort that began last year through our LINK trip to Philadelphia. It further solidifies ARC’s ongoing commitment to the arts.
ARC’s involvement in the arts began in May of 2012, when our Board voted to incorporate arts and culture into the agency’s planning efforts for the 10-county Atlanta region. In doing that, we acknowledged the importance of a thriving arts community to the culture, quality of life and economy of the region, and we made a commitment to grow the region’s reputation as a flourishing center for the arts.
Then, on the LINK visit to Philadelphia last year, we met Jane Golden and the seeds of ARC’s public art program were planted. LINK is a cross-sector, cross-county leadership exchange, organized by ARC, to expose regional leaders to other metro areas and how address similar challenges and opportunities. In Philadelphia, we explored community redevelopment, innovation and technology, transportation and economic development. But, one speaker in particular excited, provoked and inspired the LINK trip participants. That speaker was Jane Golden.
And, after hearing her inspirational talk, many participants on the LINK trip were moved, on the spot, to make two very specific commitments. The first commitment was to pledge their own funds to launch a regional public arts initiative in metro Atlanta. The second commitment was made by the Blank Foundation to bring Jane Golden to Atlanta so the LINK participants could share the same excitement they experienced.
What inspired LINK participants to pledge funds after hearing Jane Golden was the way her program in Philadelphia used public art, not just to beautify communities, but to encourage community engagement and act as a tool for community development. Those are the goals we hope to achieve in the Atlanta region.
“Sometimes they were about people’s stories or their histories, their struggles, their aspirations, their triumphs, their history. Their history on large walls. Mirrors that you hold up to people and you say, ‘Your life counts’.” – Jane Golden
The Atlanta Regional Public Art Program is a competitive grant program that will use the funds pledged by LINK participants and others, to provide matching grants to local governments, community improvement districts, neighborhood associations and nonprofits.
Interested organizations may apply to receive up to $15,000 in matching funds for the creation and installation of public art in their communities. Once an organization is selected, they will choose an artist to work with their community to develop a public art installation that responds to a regional theme. We have chosen a theme that allows each community to celebrate their individuality within the region. The theme is: “Atlantans share the belief that there is ample opportunity to participate in making history in our region.”Their history on large walls. Mirrors that you hold up to people and you say, ‘Your life counts’. – Jane Golden Click To Tweet
Each community that receives funds will interpret this theme in their own unique way and will work to develop their response through a variety of community engagement tools. We understand that collaborative public art will be new to many communities in metro Atlanta, so ARC plans to offer workshops to provide training and technical assistance for both artists and project sponsors. These workshops will guide participants throughout this process. We can’t wait to see the art they create and the impact it may have!
To view the program details, sign up for updates and download the application for the program, please visit our website, publicart.atlantaregional.com.
And, to experience the enthusiasm and excitement of Jane Golden and see what she has accomplished with the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, watch a webcast of her talk in Atlanta at the Arthur Blank Foundation: The Power of Public Murals: It Ain’t About the Paint.