Just art for a just city

Public art should be able to generate a sense of ownership, forging a connection between citizens, city spaces and their meanings as places.

The justifications for public art are multiple: Boosting cultural tourism; enhancing land values; creating employment; increasing use of urban spaces; and, reducing vandalism. For its advocates, there is an overall sense of the significant role that public art can play in culture-led urban regeneration, in the economic realm, but also in terms of culture and community.

Public art not only contributes to the visual attractiveness of the city and has the ability to aestheticise urban spaces, but also, through public art, authorities can signal their willingness to deal with social and environmental problems. Further, public art can be the means by which to draw the invisible into the urban narrative – this is about creating democratic art that in turn creates democratic spaces.

In this instance, the emphasis must fall on the implementation of a process which democratically gives room for multiple voices to be heard. We might therefore advocate for co-creative processes that facilitate a space for cultural exchange rather than impose an artificial, fixed vision of a community through a singular representation.

The role of public art should be to encourage the sound of contradictory voices—voices that represent the diversity of people using the space—rather than aspire to myths of harmony based around essentialist concepts.