How Can Public Art Be Even More Public?

Last week, SeeClickFix was mentioned in a newsletter created by a group called The Graffiti Consultants ' a full service anti-graffiti consulting form.

It began a conversation in the office about SeeClickFix's relationship with graffiti service requests and our role as a city's "graffiti consultant".

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There's a growing volume of discussion and research dissecting public art. Research asks questions like what is the difference between graffiti and street art? How do these movements become destructive or productive? When does public art help or hurt a city?

These are questions that we at SeeClickFix feel every city or community has to answer for themselves. When it comes to public art, SeeClickFix is not a decision-maker, nor does it aim to be; it is a channel that facilitates community decision-making. Our goal is to provide a platform that affords citizens and government officials of every community the ability to decide for themselves what they want in their city ' including what forms of public expression they want to represent them.

Answering questions about the use and potential of public art always will go back to the question: what does the community need and want?

Here's one example of how these conversations have taken place on SeeClickFix:

Another reason why graffiti service requests fascinate us is because of the incredible street/public art happening in our homebase of New Haven, CT. It's no secret that our city is swiftly becoming a public art hub. Some SeeClickFix graffiti service requests have contributed to community members becoming inspired to take action.

In 2013, citizen user "Rh" reported graffiti in a skate park in New Haven's Edgewood Park with the description "Inappropriate graffiti with bad language and pictures". The issue gained momentum with some community members "voting up" the issue and commenting. One citizen user "rlhblh" voiced concerned that "this is a park where there are both older skaters and children under the age of 10 on regular basis" (See the issue here).

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Another citizen user and active community members Chris Heitmann commented urging the Parks Department to take care of the graffiti and offering volunteer assistance from Friends of Edgewood Park and his own organization, Westville Village Renaissance Alliance. He also recommended an idea for the long-term: "In the long-term, I believe there ought to be some sort of partnership to manage the graffiti, perhaps with some of the skaters as more of a public art program, rather than this constant graffiti - paint over (blank canvas) - graffiti - paint over cycle."

Just a year later in 2014, the skate park is a completely different place.

Community members took ideas like Chris's to heart and transformed the graffiti-ridden park into a series of beautiful murals by local and professional public artists. It was a graffiti convention, bringing together local groups like Site Projects, Inc, a non profit organizations that commissions artists for displays in New Haven, and Channel 1, a city retail gallery that aims to foster community development through art. In essence, it has become the public art venue that the community wanted it to be.

See a couple articles on the skate park art here, and here.

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The lines between public art that is vandalism or quiets voices and public art that empowers citizens can sometimes seem thin. SeeClickFix helps communities begin a conversation about what those lines are for them and how they can even sometimes transform the former into the latter.

What have the conversations around public art looked like in your community? We'd love to hear your thoughts. Tweet at us @SeeClickFix with the hashtag #makingartpublic.