A New Planning Partnership Brings Art to Public Spaces

What do planners need to know to carry out public art projects in their communities? This is the question posed by Jack Becker, founder and lead principal consultant for Forecast Public Art.

"There's growing evidence suggesting that the design of our built environment — streetscapes, buildings, plazas, parks, and the city itself — significantly impacts the way we feel," said Becker, "how we connect with each other, and how our city is perceived by others."

Planners and allied professionals, such as landscape architects, engineers, and architects, should feel confident in shaping the built environment to support arts and culture in their communities.

Forecast Public Art is collaborating with APA to identify and address knowledge gaps at the intersection of public art and planning practice, thanks to generous funding provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation.

This partnership provides opportunities for artists, planners, community members, and stakeholders to come together to create, support, and access public art and corresponding community spaces. Planners can play an important role in developing public art by identifying opportunities for community engagement, identifying funding, and supporting the role of artists in shaping their communities.

Planners can work with community members and artists to create public art plans or incorporate public art into comprehensive plans and engage artists through smaller scale projects that connect public art to community goals.

Public art also plays a role in supporting community health. Art can shape health factors like physical and mental health, social cohesion, and public safety. Projects that incorporate public participation can help build connections between residents and provide an opportunity for residents to shape community spaces. Completed public art projects can result in new community gathering spaces that reflect community characteristics.

"Public art strategies that reinforce planning goals should be in every planners' toolbox," says Becker.

Available Materials for Planners

Forecast Public Art and APA are working together to release materials that equip planners to navigate the intersection between planning and public art.

Download an issue of PAS QuickNotes titled "Public Art and Planning."

Two courses, "Spaces, Places, and Public Art" and "Public Art and Healthy Communities," are available through Forecast.ED. Each course offers CM | 2.

Top image: Urban Flower Field in Pedro Park, St. Paul, Minnesota, brings together a spiraling set of 96 flower plots, a four-story spiral mural, and a patio with chairs for gathering. It is a project of Public Art Saint Paul and was created by Amanda Lovelee. Photo by Flickr user Michel Curi (CC BY 2.0).

About the Author
Johamary Peña is a research associate at APA.

March 29, 2019

By Johamary Pena