What is the function of public art in society?

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Public art is on display for the people to see and appreciate. Public art can be used to celebrate past events or national heroes. Public art provides more accessible histories to tourists than anything written inside of a book. While public art cannot provide a full objective view of an event or a person, it can be a useful a method for giving a quick explanation of one's culture to outsiders.

Public art can also be used to celebrate artistic styles of a region. Public concerts can allow people to hear the folk music of a region. Parades in traditional costume can show people the history of a nation. Public art also provides local artists a venue to show off their talents. For example, in American history, one of the goals of the New Deal was to employ artists in creating murals celebrating the United States's labor history. While this can be viewed as pro-labor propaganda funded by the national government, the act created many new pieces of public art for people to view and appreciate.

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Public art serves many functions in society. It's interesting because there are different types of public art—from art installations to graffiti—that appear in public spaces. Art installations, which are commissioned by public or private patrons, can be installed in order to make an area more visually appealing, to impart culture or histories to visitors, or to impart some message. Statues, for example, are installed as memorials to people, places, or events.

On the other hand, graffiti (illegal in most places) can also be considered a form of public art. It is a form of counter-culture art where people, unsanctioned by the owners of a public or private space, choose to impart a certain message or to draw attention to images or events. In this way, both graffiti and art instillations share the function of imparting an artist's message through their varied forms of expression; the intention is that the piece will evoke a feeling or give some understanding. The more subtle differences stem from whether or not this public art is condoned by the owners of these spaces.

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Well let's take a look at what that means..."public art."  This is art that has been created with the intention of being displayed in a public place where it can be accessible to everyone.  This, of course, contrasts with art that is privately held or is being kept in a museum.  Sometimes this includes art inside of buildings that people can get to and see if they wanted to, but I think the spirit of true "public art" is that it is more accessible in that it is "out there."

This type of art has been around for a long time, with monuments and statues being some common forms people have been making for centuries. Some people also include in this definition examples of beautiful architecture which are meant to be enjoyed by everyone who sees them.

The art should not, also, be limited to physical things.  Public art can be human demonstrations of various kinds, such as dances, parades, and other displays.

As for the purpose, well, it has the same purpose as any art: to be enjoyed, to make people think, or to convince people to believe a certain way.  When taken too far, public art can become propaganda, but usually in society it functions as a way to beautify or express a common community value.  The art becomes controversial when it "goes too far" or goes against those community values.

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