Public art was a feature across many community projects. Murals proliferated the walls surrounding reclaimed lots and sides of nearby buildings. While focusing on urban agriculture, I couldn't help but notice its prevalence and muse on its intended purpose. Urban art is another expression of public ownership of space. It provides a way for residents to be part of the visual landscape dominated by ads and corporate logos. Furthermore, much of the public art had a message - whether explicit or subversive. Most of the artist commentaries were political in some nature, as would be expected given their connection with the urban social movement. Public art also serves as a way to express care for a community. Blighted neighborhoods can challenge perceptions of residents and visitors with public art, demonstrating that this is a place that deserves attention.
Nevertheless, the majority of public art I saw was created by a single artist. It did not entail a community effort to create and the artist may not have even been from the neighborhood. If the art sparks thoughtful discussion or adds beauty does this matter? Or would it be more impactful if residents took part in bringing the art to fruition in some way - whether helping paint or simply helping clean and prepare the art for the artwork.
One such example is the Gowanus Canal Conservancy and their murals throughout the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn. A local artist has designed three such murals, inspired by the local context. Murals are designed in a way that community members can take part, with a paint-by-numbers style color blocking. Then the artist refines and puts finishing touches on to finish the murals. In this way, it is a collaborative process that makes a statement in the community yet also involves community members in its production.