“Public art has the power to transform a community and inspire us to see the world in new ways.”  ~Kirk Smiley

With summer holidays we plunge into a season of public celebration and wide range of emotions. From pride in our nation’s history to reflecting on political challenges, summer holidays evoke powerful sentiments.  Local public monuments and sculptures have long expressed a public spirit of patriotism—and can still serve important purposes!

“Glenview Freedom Memorial”

As pictured above, this sculpture display was commissioned to acknowledge and celebrate American military service in the context of other Gallery Park cultural features.  It also provides a timely reminder of the purposes of the current holidays.  And I believe the project illustrates key elements which make a public artwork an enduring success.

Public art is increasingly recognized as a necessary ingredient for making communities attractive and vibrant places to live and work.  See CMAP Study: Arts Essential to the Regional Economy.  While sometimes discounted as a nice “extra” or added expense, public art has  immense capacity to inspire and commemorate events. 

And civic and patriotic projects can get complicated these days with funding and political considerations – and trigger strong and sometimes conflicting emotions.  The phrase “beauty in the eye of the beholder” is often mis-quoted,  and usually dismissively applied as opposition.  But as a lawyer involved with architectural design review, I think such complications can be avoided.  And the social and cultural values of public art are well worth the risk.

Elements for Enduring Success:  From my earlier involvement with this project, I found that inspirational public art projects depend upon a few key elements including: 1. generous private contributors;  2. creative and supportive local government staff, and 3. constructive and transparent community input.  These elements are clearly illustrated by this  Glenview example. 

1. Gracious individual contributors play a vital role in funding and championing public art initiatives. Their support ensures that ambitious artistic visions can be realized.  In this case, the personal commitment of a veteran’s family provided that commitment.

2. Proactive and creative local government staff contribute to the success of public art projects by facilitating the planning and implementation.  In Glenview, a unique collaboration of Village and Park District staff assured that the project aligned the individual donor’s aspirations with the community values.

3. Constructive and transparent civic input is crucial for the success and acceptance of public art installations. By engaging the community, a stronger connection is forged between the artwork and the diverse perspectives of those it represents.  In this instance, various civic representatives were selected – and I felt honored to participate.

As we enjoy the summer holidays, let’s embrace the power of public art to inspire and unite us. The patriotic public sculpture in Glenview’s Gallery Park stands as a commemoration of our freedoms and the efforts of all involved in creating inspirational projects.