NW MI Arts & Culture Network
Connecting & Creating: Sharing Art in the Public Square
Published in the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 8/5/2022 (Link to article online here)
The sights and sounds of summer are swirling around us, infused by the artists that bring creative voice and vision into our communities and daily lives. What better time than summer to share the sheer joy that arises from engaging with arts and culture …. especially when they take center stage in the public square.
Enjoying the arts isn’t restricted to the inside of museums, galleries and venues, as wonderful as those visits are. One of my favorite experiences during the July 4 weekend was buying ice cream at the Dairy Lodge while the Pulse Saxophone Quartet played nearby. It was unexpected, great fun and a most welcome contrast to the Blue Angels’ roar heard just an hour earlier. Judging by the smiles and the crowd, I wasn’t alone.
The Dairy Lodge performance was one of the IPR Live summer pop-up concerts, all hosted in unusual and fun locations. Others showcased The Sound Garden, QuinTango, Michael Delp, Crispin Campbell and Six Mile Strings performing at area breweries, distilleries, and community gathering spots stretching from Benzie to Antrim counties. The goal was to share “…the delight and surprise of live music into people’s lives when it was least expected.”
There are so many ways to enjoy the arts in free, community settings.
Last week, many gathered in the Open Space as the Traverse City Film Festival projected classic movies on a giant inflatable screen. Days later, Traverse Symphony Orchestra performed in the Botanic Gardens, and Traverse City Dance Project took its moveable theater on the road. On other days and in many towns, summer buskers dot street corners and farmers markets while nearby murals and sculptures brighten buildings and pathways. In downtown Traverse City, the Dennos Museum Center’s rich collection comes outdoors, amplified in large banners displayed on commercial walls throughout the district. All enrich our communities with creative vibrancy.
When we share arts and culture in public, we share new experiences with a common bond – of joy, of conversation, of new thoughts, of our past and our present – and, perhaps, move forward with broader perspective, understanding, and shared connection.
There are many reasons and many studies to support arts in the public space. Americans for the Arts and the Public Arts Network published Why Public Art Matters in 2018. The points are even more relevant in today’s pandemic impacted world:
- Economic Growth. Communities thrive when public art is used for cultural economic development.
- Cultural Identity. Public art directly influences how we see and connect with a place, validating identity and valuing each other and community.
- Artists as Partners. A public arts ecosystem supports artists by validating them as important contributors to the community.
- Cultural Understanding. Public art provides a visual bridge for understanding other cultures and perspectives, reinforcing social connectivity with others.
- Public Health and Belonging. Public art addresses public health and personal illness by reducing stress, providing a sense of belonging, and addressing stigmas towards those with mental health issues.
Personally, I love the joy in seeing, hearing, learning, feeling and experiencing all that arises when arts and culture are celebrated in the public square.
There are still many creative connections to be enjoyed before summer melts away. Here’s a sample:
- Listen to outdoor community concerts like the Grand Traverse Pavilions weekly Concerts on the Lawn, Northport’s Music in the Park and Leland’s Music in the Air at the Old Art Building.
- Watch artists at work during August plein air events. This weekend, Glen Arbor Arts hosts its 2022 Plein Air Weekend followed by Crooked Tree Art Center – Traverse City’s Paint Grand Traverse 8/14-20.
- Discover the sculptures that fill the regional map. Hike through Michigan Legacy Art Park or Art Rapids’ Walk of Art. Bike the TART Trails for Art on the TART, or stroll by sculptures at NMC, in community parks, downtowns or area galleries.
Finally, if you’d like to take a tiny piece of public art into your own home, stop by the Little Free Art Galleries at Oliver Art Center, Benzie Shores Public Library and Glen Arbor Arts. Similar to Little Free Libraries, the Little Galleries are filled with art to share.
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Mary Bevans Gillett is the convener at the Northwest Michigan Arts & Culture Network. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.nwmiarts.org.