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How art in public places unites a community

The emergence of art in the city was one of the first notable things that stood out during the early days of COVID-19. A full mural was painted in New Westminster within a few months. 

Public art has many forms: murals, prints, outdoor statues and installations. This list covers the more typical art forms we see in our daily lives. Yet, there are many more that provide unifying forces within a community. 

Art was used for public service announcements during COVID-19, conveying the important precautions of handwashing and social distancing. 

Public art unifies communities within economic, social and geographical sectors. Evidence for this is demonstrated with public art events such as art festivals, outdoor exhibitions and live concerts.

A photo of a mural on a Vancouver building at sunset
Photo of Vancouver Mural, Tim Woolliscroft

Art festivals bring artists from a wider region together with two main benefits: public awareness of the types of art in their neighbourhood or region and opportunities for artists to sell their products and gain exposure. 

Outdoor exhibitions in parks provide visitors with an opportunity to see unique art. North Vancouver’s Capilano Provincial Park is home to the famous suspension bridge and cliff walk. Capilano Park’s Valentine-themed decor provides a unique immersive experience for visitors; lights are arranged seamlessly within the architecture of the park.

Live concerts allow bands to gain exposure by performing in different venues. Local restaurants receive income and publicity by selling their unique cuisine at live concerts. Vancouver’s live summer concerts and festivals, hosted annually from May to August, provide bands, restaurants and various organizations the opportunity to expand their audience through performances, travelling food trucks and outreach programs. 

Art classes are another example of connecting communities. Burnaby’s Shadbolt Centre, situated in the expansive Deer Lake Park, provides residents and non-residents access to creative classes such as dance, creative writing, painting and pottery. The classes engage all ages and bring together unique sets of people over a shared passion. 

Public art induces collaboration among various industries and groups, which is how it provides connection within a community. 

Public art is incredibly viable for the local economy; it provides jobs within a variety of industries. A public mural, for example, may require collaboration between designers, city planners and artists. Public installation series may require curators to assist in selecting a limited set of pieces for a cohesive collection and engineers to assist with placement and installation. Public art unites a community two-fold by providing employment or project opportunities across various industries and the collaboration of diverse industry professionals. 

Public art unites a community in many ways. Art’s presence in our parks, festivals, concerts and public spaces provides collaboration opportunities among diverse professions. Art also unifies people to a common cause, such as taking health precautions during the COVID-19 outbreak by following public infographics and visual PSAs. 

Artists gain publicity from sharing their products at public events; bands and performers increase their exposure when they perform in various venues. Creative classes hosted by community centres bring together people of different ages and backgrounds around a shared hobby. 

Bringing artists and creatives together yields opportunities for connection among diverse groups. Art is a versatile and powerful activity for bringing people together for connection, activism and sustaining community.  

By Jackie Vink


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