Public art has been around for thousands of years. It includes monuments, statues, architectural creations (such as buildings), murals, graffitti .... you name it. According to some people, it even includes performances of dance, music and theater just so long as they are free and open to the public.
In fact, according to Wikipedia, "Public art is art in any media that has been planned and executed with the intention of being staged in the physical public domain.....[and] may include any art which is exhibited in a public space." That is pretty broad - so broad as to include almost anything, except art that is not open to the general public, such as works held in private collections.
For our purposes, we'll consider any work of art deliberately created in a public space with the intention that it be viewed by the general public to be public art. This includes murals over highways, art painted on the outsides of buildings that are visible to the general public, statues in public places, and so forth.
There has been a modern movement dating in particular from the 1970s to create public art that would not only be visible but also appealing to the general public. In many cases, these art works have been intended to inspire people to action or to make them feel part of a community.
The San Francisco Bay Area is full of public art. Much of artist Hershell West's work falls squarely into this movement, from the murals he created in public spaces in Florida focused on civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to one he painted in Oakland featuring to local residents. The sculptural hearts that the city of San Francisco commissioned in the early 2000s are another great example of public art.
A wonderful statue made out of found materials out by the bay in Albany is surely public art. It's located in a public park and is accessible to anyone who wants to walk out there. Even other examples are the murals painted on freeway overpasses - many of them the work of John Wehrle in which Hershell West was his assistant. These were commissioned by the cities of Richmond and Pinole which points up another angle: much of public art is publicly funded, that is to say, is funded by public entities such as local government.
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