Hooray for Public Art

Hooray for Public Art
Some murals and sculpture are available free to the public regardless of one's social status. Art is communication, providing more questions than answers to those of us who are curious. Are you?

Note: what may have once been free of charge may now require an admission fee. If the artwork has been moved inside or no longer in free public spaces.

The oldest form of visual art is cave painting, around 400 found internationally. One of the oldest is Chauvet Cave in southern France, some 32,000 years old. Over 900 figurative drawings, engravings, and handprints adorn this subterranean complex. A new replica museum does require an admission fee.

Ancient Egypt displayed wall paintings in tombs, meant to be viewed in the afterlife. However, after archaeological excavations, these treasures can be seen in museums or at the point of origin, perhaps requiring a charge to experience, including 3D versions.

The "Obelisk" or "Cleopatra's Needle" is the oldest outdoor monument in NYC. It is one of a pair removed from Alexandria, Egypt in the 19th century.

Artists from Ancient Rome painted wall art to brighten dark rooms without windows. The murals (frescoes) and graffiti from Pompeii illustrate mythology, religion, sports, and other affairs.

During WWII in the US, the Federal Ars Program under the WPA (Works Progress Administration) employed 1,100+ out-of-work artists for the purpose of creating 100,000 paintings and murals on non-federal and public spaces.

Some notable artists who participated in the WPA program are Mark Rothko, Philip Guston, Lee Krasner, Stuart Davis, and Arshile Gorky, whose mural "Aerial Map" (1935-1937) was painted for Newark (NJ) Airport's Administrative Building.

Mexican artist Diego Rivera painted a series of twenty-seven (27) Detroit Industry Murals (1933) depicting the Ford Motor Company. They can now be seen at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA).

Sculpture can be found in virtually every major city in the US and worldwide. Jeff Koon's "Flower Balloon" (2006) at 7 World Trade Center in New York City brings surprise and delight to people of all ages. For starters, it sparks a conversation!

Graffiti or street art, once considered a subculture, has since been elevated to high art due to artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Bansky.

Basquiat (1960-1988) began his short-lived career as a street artist, then progressed to studio work with the help of a gallery owner. His slogan "SAMO" and (Same Old is Dead) was his graffiti tag.

Keith Haring (1958-1990) began creating chalk drawings in NY subway stations, later painting murals around the world.

FYI, if attempting sidewalk chalk art, be sure to use soft pastels.

Bansky is a street artist, based in England. Famously known for the stencil mural "Girl with a Balloon" (2002), his identity remains unverified. He has decorated streets, walls, and bridges, thus able to command high prices at auction.

In the US, sadly, school shootings have become more commonplace. In 2022 a horrific shooting took place at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Twenty-one (21) Healing Uvalde Portrait Murals commemorate those whose lives were taken that day.

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This content was written by Camille Gizzarelli. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Camille Gizzarelli for details.