In the link I've provided below, I believe Lloyd Goodrich lays out some extremely valuable ideas of the role of art in modern society.
In the past, when the church had heavy control of religion, art became a unifying banner that the people rallied around. It was a reflection of the values of society and gave the people something to feel a part of.
Today, though, with the varied schools of thought both in politics and religion, art has become more an expression of individualism. Whether regionally, locally, or nationally, artists today express their core ideas (of beauty, life, love, politics, religion) through their works. They also tend to take a stand on world issues through their pieces.
This eclectic world of art seems to fit our modern democracy where the individual and what is important to him/her reigns.
Public art is important because it provides expression. In high school you only see one maybe 2 art classes but 5 varieties of another class. Some kids are less expressive and turn it into art but with art slipping away it isn't turning out for the best. With art becoming public and in art museums others are taking inspiration from it and even incorporating what they see into their own art.
I think public art is important, no matter what type of time period we're in. However, in terms of modern day society, we often times forget to be creative and express ourselves visually and freely because we are so caught up with the different forms of technology. Therefore, art classes are slowly decreasing and funding is disappearing for these classes in school. However, by making art public, people start to think and take interest in art.
art is expression of soul. life is easily disected, labled & packaged. art is the combatant. modern day society of the early 21st century is much about impatience. hurry! hurry! text, email, communicate! drive faster! it can give u an ulcer. ;)
art for the fascilitator and the audience is a point of release, peace and connection. we must have patience to express & appreciate art. art is the moment of silence we need as creator and appreciator to better balance a hectic life. :)