Public art is something that is near and dear to my heart. I so enjoy going to any bigger city and seeking out the public art. We moved to Oregon from Laguna Beach. I've spent plenty of vacations in Santa Fe, NM. I understand public art.
Since prehistoric times groups of people have used art to tell their story. This rock art called She Who Watches was carved and painted by Native Americans thousands of years ago. This art can be found on rocks overlooking the Columbia River on the Washington side near The Dalles. This haunting image tells the story about a woman chief who was given the task of watching over her people for all time by the Coyote Spirit. This image has become symbolic of the ancient Native American community of people who created it.
Often we think of art as being something created to express how the artist thinks or feels about something. But art is also used as a way for a whole community, or group of people, to express something. This art is called public art. Public art can be painting, sculpture, mixed media, or even a building. It is often located outside but is sometimes in an indoor area that is open to the public.
This is the Lincoln Statue in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and it is perhaps the most powerful and famous example of American public art . Seeing this beautiful marble statue reminds us of one of our most beloved leaders, Abraham Lincoln, and an important event, the Civil War. This public art piece helps us remember all the good things that Lincoln accomplished such as freeing the slaves and bringing the North and South back together into one united country. As in the Lincoln statue, another thing that public art does is to show the heroes of a group of people. There are more statues of Abraham Lincoln in the United States than of any other person. This shows what an important hero he is to the American people.
Here is another arch even bigger than the one we looked at from Oregon. It is called The Gateway Arch. The Arch was built in the 1960's to honor Thomas Jefferson for sending the explorers, Lewis and Clark on their long journey that opened the West and ended at the Oregon coastline. The arch is located in St. Louis, Missouri, considered the “gateway to the west” where the long journey on the Oregon Trail started for many pioneer families. The architect, Eero Saarinen (arrow sar-in-nen) designed the public art piece to symbolize the spread of freedom and democracy from “sea to shining sea”. As in the Washington Monument, the graceful simplicity of the arch is very powerful. The arch is gigantic - even taller than the Washington Monument. Does this public art piece have form, or the 3 dimensions of height, width and depth? (The arch does have form; it is 630 feet tall and 630 feet wide, has depth and takes up actual space.)
This was a very interactive lesson. As the images of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Memorial, Statue of Liberty and Portland bridges came up on the screen, I asked the students by show of hands who had seen these in person. They LIT UP! We had a discussion about grafitti and why it is not public art. We talked about funding for public art - how it happens.
Did you know TriMet has an entire art section on their site, including videos?http://trimet.org/publicart/index.htm We also talked about the Vietnam Memorial in DC and let them know we have one right here in Portland:http://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/finder/index.cfm?&showresults=yes&searchtext=vietnam
And how can you talk about important pieces such as the Vietnam Memorial and Civil Rights Memorial installations without talking about artist Maya Lin, too: http://www.mayalin.com/ You may enjoy her work.
The 4th grade students made their own public art installations out of paper. They learned a lot of shaping and attachment techniques. When they were done, we glued an "army guy" on each base to give perspective. We picked them up at the $1 store.
There was a lot of collaboration and students helping students, asking for feedback and problem solving. Easy project that can be done with recycled materials, scraps of colorful paper and leftover mat boards from frame shops. Highly recommend teaching them mini-hot-gluegun techniques. It would have helped a bunch for quicker drying to achieve the heights they wanted.