Monograph: Public Art Controversy: Cultural Expression and Civic Debate
Local conflicts over public art have occurred throughout the United States. In Memphis, controversy erupted over inclusion of the phrase “Workers of the World, Unite!” in a sidewalk designed for the city’s new public library. In Milwaukee, selection of Dennis Oppenheim’s fiber-glass sculpture Blue Shirt for an airport parking garage was perceived as a slur on the city’s working-class roots. In Boston, a public art tribute to Polish patriots created controversy when it was first placed in a remote corner of the city’s Common in 1983, and then generated even more consternation when it was moved into storage in 2006. In Portland, ME, a bronze sculpture of an all-white family heading to a baseball game unleashed accusations of racism. And in Baldwin Park, CA, a public art project that draws attention to the city’s indigenous peoples and histories—and explored in more detail in this Monograph—was attacked by anti-immigration groups.
Americans for the Arts’ Monograph series featured in-depth issue papers on topics that were of the greatest interest to our members and arts professionals at the time. They often still serve as excellent resources for best practices and historic reference for today’s issues. Monographs were produced from 1993–2010. Monographs from 2001-2010 are available for downloadable in PDF format our online store at a nominal fee for nonmembers but free to members. All monographs from 1993-2000 are available for free download via the National Arts Administration and Policy Publications Database.
Local conflicts over public art have occurred throughout the United States. This Monograph looks at several of those controversies.