The social and economic impacts of public art : connections, complexity, and possibilities



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This professional report addresses the broad issue of evaluating the impact of artistic and cultural activity. Focusing on the quantitative and qualitative effects of public art, this report attempts to address the following questions: What are the social and economic impacts of public art, and what can planners (land use, economic development, neighborhood development, participatory action planners) do to reap potential benefits while avoiding negative impacts? I address these questions through an in-depth review of existing literature from diverse fields and schools of thought and through qualitative analysis of the case study of Aurora, a large-scale new media art event in Dallas, Texas. Drawing upon these sources a number of connections are made and contradictions are revealed, and the complexity of how people perceive and value public art emerges from the literature and the case. The qualitative, cross-disciplinary analysis is used to suggest routes to further avenues of multidisciplinary research as well as revealing possible new ways of thinking about the form and value of public art. The research demonstrates both positive and negative effects from public art depending on context, content, interpretation, as well as an interaction between these factors. Thoughtful implementation suggests great potential for public art’s social benefit and it is an activity that planners and policymakers certainly have role in as regulators of urban space.