The Purpose & Value of Public Art

statue 2 image by Jerome Dancette from

Public works of art are prominent in cities and places throughout the world and the United States. Unlike private works of art, viewing public art is free and nonexclusive; you just have to be where the art is. Public works of art aim to enrich the community by evoking meaning and purpose in the public setting.

Types of Public Art

There are five types of public art: integrated, semi-integrated, discrete, community art and ephemeral art. Integrated public art draws inspiration from the location and could not exist anywhere else. Integrated public art uses the location's history, culture and social circumstances that make the work of art distinctly a part of the community. Semi-integrated public art gathers its inspiration, to a certain degree, from the location, but is not necessarily mutually exclusive to that area; the piece of art works in different locations, provided the locations share the same conceptual and physical locations.

Discrete works of public art are not integrated with a certain area, therefore having no conceptual or physical dependence on the location. Community art focuses on the community's belief system; these works of public art often have a community-based design and allow people to express their goals or problems. Community public art helps bring people's experiences in the community into the work of art itself.

Ephemeral public art is temporary, is designed specifically for an occasion or event and is transitory in nature. The Gates exhibit in Central Park during February of 2005 is an example of ephemeral public art.


The purpose behind public art is to enrich the community by evoking meaning in the public forum. Public artwork is meant to inspire higher thought about the community, or thought in general, and can help raise awareness or give remembrance to events. Public artwork is meant to be seen, but more so experienced, as a work of art can help inspire and provide perspective no matter what the subject at hand.


There is no true way to find the value of public art, as there are no real ways to measure inspiration or insight that any public artwork may help inspire. Public art is there to be experienced, and the beauty of art is that if a hundred people all see the same artwork, there could be a hundred different ideas and interpretations of the same work. It is important when gauging a value of a public artwork to take in account the effect it has on the community it is in and how members of the community view the artwork; this is the best way to find the value of a specific piece of public artwork in a community.


Public art offers social and physical benefits. Public art, depending on its size, can act as an impromptu meeting place or local hangout. Sometimes the public artwork will also shine a light onto a particular event rooted deep within the community, acting as a talking point for an important social conversation for the community. Public art is also a sign of maturation and identity within a community.


Public art is available in most towns and communities in America and throughout Europe. You probably see some sort of public art every day; whether it be a memorial, statue, fountain or picture, public art surrounds and enlivens the world we live in. There is usually a flux of public art in most cities; cities are an effective showcase for artists, since their work will be seen by many people.