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'The Power of Public Art'

Why public art? What is "The Power of Public Art?"

The Ashland Public Arts Commission has some thoughts — and many beautiful images — to share with you on these topics. Tune in to a Zoom webinar at 4 p.m. Tuesday, June 15, for the premiere of a 23-minute presentation called “The Power of Public Art,” with narration by OSF actor Anthony Heald.

This presentation defines and provides an overview of public art and its role in contemporary communities. You will find the Zoom registration link on the Public Arts Commission home page at the city of Ashland website.

Our town is no stranger to public art. You may recognize the Butler-Perozzi Fountain in Lithia Park, Pioneer Mike in The Plaza and the Mickelsen-Chapman Memorial Fountain in front of the Ashland library, all from the early 1900s.

Our city public art collection has grown considerably since the Public Arts Commission was formed in 2003 by Ashland City Council. Yet many of us don't know the scope of the commission's work or its purpose.

Beginning in late 2017, with a goal of answering these questions, Tom Fuhrmark, Sandy Friend and Allison Renwick led the creation of “The Power of Public Art.” Fuhrmark came to the Public Arts Commission with more than three decades of experience working as a graphic artist. While still a relatively new commissioner, he saw the need to make the work of the commission more understandable to the public.

Finally complete, the presentation has become a masterful introduction to the value of public art. You will see dramatic, beautiful and controversial artworks. Friend explained that, as they were making the presentation, "We discovered so much amazing, unique and imaginative public art in our online searches, and were always scrambling for a relevant connection to add powerful pieces into our video."

You will learn about the what and the why of public art. Most of all, you will hopefully leave with new insights and understanding — even new questions.

When I spoke with Fuhrmark, he said, "As we got into creating the presentation, I changed the title from something generic to ‘The Power of Public Art.’ Public art is more than just an artist and his or her audience. It is more impactful because it includes the concept of our community reflected in the art."

Friend related her "why" for the power of public art: "I think a key to the success of public art is its ability to ignite our imagination, inviting us to visualize the universe in a new way."

Renwick added this "why" from the nonprofit group Americans for the Arts: "Public art humanizes the built environment. It provides an intersection between past, present and future. ... Public art matters because our communities gain cultural, social and economic value through public art."

Join us June 15 to learn more and be uplifted.

Peter Finkle writes about Ashland history, neighborhoods, public art and more. See WalkAshland.com for his Ashland stories.