I want to consider art as a public service. Wildness in art is about art being supported as a part of the fundamental way society functions. Especially considering its major role in honing our current perspectives and our sense of visual memory. For art to arise naturally in public and shared spaces, organically and practically it would simply require a philosophical shift encouraging us to find ways to support and engage with art through a variety of simple approaches. This would initiate its growth organically. As if it grows out the grass, as a part of the daily landscape that we typically navigate. Like an outcropping of daily life. Organically shifting and changing.
Supporting this model would require two substantial steps: money and everyday citizens participating in the artistic process on a daily basis. Both are much easier to implement than a lot of us consider. Citizen participation involves artists; they could submit one-page proposals for creating some type of work in any medium, including performance and social practice, in a specific neighborhood. Artists submit proposals. City officials and the local communities would vote (by elected leaders and ballot proposals) on the projects to be commissioned in each neighborhood with each group’s vote weighted fifty/fifty. Then the artist whose proposal was selected would be embedded in a specific neighborhood for up to five months, not necessarily continuously, to make their project. This could be publicized to the community via flyers and city signs and other public announcements. These would include the artist’s picture and contact info. The project would have to be executed by the end of a calendar year and exist in a public space or be publicly accessible in some form in the neighborhood. The artist could hold weekly meeting hours which could include Saturdays, where local people could meet to give their input or share their ideas, regardless of their profession. There are various ways in which ideas and suggestions could be shared with the artists. They could be communicated in person, or via a virtual suggestion box, and could be delivered at any stage in the project’s iteration. The expense is scalable and more importantly minimal. If you take NYC for example, a city with a 98.5 billion dollar budget, 2 million dollars would pay for more than sixty-five commissions of 30 thousand dollars. This would fund a commission in each of NYC’s community districts and leave funding for an additional seven projects. Other municipalities could adjust for scale and cost of living accordingly.
This model allows creative professionals to step into and embrace their role as civil servants, and grants access to the arts and the creative process in a participatory way, within a daily lived experience, that is not often accessible to the general public. The critical element is that they will have agency, not necessarily the final say in images and stories that are shared publicly within the geographic space they share with their neighbors. It is also critical that this is an ongoing effort that continues from year to year so there are ongoing public expectations as well as accountability on the parts of all parties involved. How would people respond to their neighborhood artist if they knew they could just at ’em and possibly have a say in the next public art piece that happens in their neighborhood? Would it be difficult to start a social tradition where if someone made something creative in public and you liked it you would simply contribute something to it? These contributions could exist in a variety of practical, direct, and service-based forms. It reminds me of why I am so obsessed with those public community refrigerators. They are smart and surprisingly simple examples of how everyone can easily contribute to making a thing that is useful to many people who live in their neighborhood. Why couldn’t we apply a similar approach to public art under an intentional and strategic structure? It happens digitally to some extent, but in that form it does not resonate as profoundly. I still think we feel as though we can always turn it off. I am curious about embedded art; in scenarios where people have to live with it, but where they are not used to living with it.
This feels like an act of freedom. Symbolic of a truly free society which allows, promotes, and supports accessibility to the arts, for most people on a regular basis. It may be supported through various avenues, long or short-term needs. The community needs could still exist in multiple ways. Utilizing new technology and media can be critical for enhancing these types of engagements as well. Extended reality which includes virtual reality, augmented reality, immersive experiences and films, as well as virtual games have become additional mediums for developing audience engagement and artistic impact within the general public. These new mediums can also serve as stand-ins for experiencing public spaces without actually having to navigate public space.