American Artists and the Role of Public Art in Economic Development

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

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This August, we’re celebrating Mid-American Artists as part of American Artist Appreciation Month. Many of America’s incredible artists come from Mid-America. Just a few of the notable artists from Mid-America include Georgia O'Keeffe, a painter from Wisconsin; Joan Mitchell, a painter and printmaker from Illinois; Maya Lin, a designer and sculptor from Ohio; and Grant Wood, a painter from Iowa.

Art is an intentional expression of creativity and it has the power to affect our emotions. From Lin’s moving, historical memorials to Wood’s paintings of midwestern life in the early 1900s, each artwork tells a story and gives viewers a feeling of connection with the past. 

Community leaders have used public art to create these connections for thousands of years, but until recently art and cultural resources weren’t seen as economic assets. Today, public art is valued for its cultural significance as well as its contribution to the local economy.

Public art encourages tourism and provides a focal point for a community, both of which are strong economic boosters. Whether tourists come for an annual event, like ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, MI, or visit Pyramid Hill, a year-round outdoor sculpture park in Hamilton, OH, public art is a great placemaking strategy for any community.

ArtPrize: An Annual Fall Event in Grand Rapids, Michigan

In Michigan, Grand Rapids is home to the annual ArtPrize, an independent international art competition, which celebrates artists working in all mediums from all over the world. This incredible event over 18 days brings the community together to host hundreds of artists’ works at more than 200 venues, including bars, public parks, restaurants, theaters, hotels, bridges, laundromats, auto body shops, vacant storefronts, and office spaces – as well as museums and galleries. ArtPrize has events daily, including concerts and dance parties, festivals, and family art-making opportunities. With thousands attending this annual event, it is a great driver of economic development in the Grand Rapids area.

Pyramid Hill: Outdoor Sculpture Park in Hamilton, Ohio

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Pyramid Hill in Hamilton, Ohio, is a 300+ acre sculpture park, with a permanent collection of more than 80 monumental outdoor sculptures. It also has a museum gallery with exhibitions by local, regional, and national artists.

Showing a clear tie between public art and economic development: Pyramid Hill attracts more than 30,000 visitors annually, and offers visitors an opportunity to enjoy art, culture, and education in a beautiful, natural setting.

Public art adds to the artistic and cultural value of a community, enhances the quality of life for residents, and leads to greater economic vitality. Public art is a wonderful way to solidify a community’s identity, foster civic pride, and give residents and visitors alike a sense of belonging. For all of these reasons, public art should be a key part of economic development planning. Americans for the Arts provides resources and more information, including how to get public art funded and approved in your community.

Category: News