Public art can transform the way we experience and interact with our surroundings. It can beautify and enhance public spaces, inspire others and spark meaningful conversations. With the Public Art Archive™ — a comprehensive online database of public art in the United States — discovering and exploring public art has never been easier.
As a fellow WESTAF program, the CaFÉ team has had the privilege of working with public art organizations and artists across the country and seeing the Public Art Archive (PAA) grow every year. We’ve had the chance to see some truly incredible pieces, from sculptures and murals to installations and photographs. With so much great public art out there, it’s hard to choose favorites, but we’ve rounded up a few that stood out to us. In this blog post, we are sharing some of our team’s favorite public art pieces from the Public Art Archive and exploring what makes them so special.
What is the Public Art Archive?
A project of the Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF), the Public Art Archive (PAA) is a free, continually growing database of completed public artworks throughout the U.S. and abroad. Its mission “to make public art more public” has guided the program’s growth into one of the largest active databases of public art, aiming to provide universal access to the complex stories that characterize public artworks as dynamic, interconnected keepers of history, context and meaning.
The CaFÉ Team’s Favorite Public Artworks
Paul’s favorite piece:
3rd and Washington by Douglas Pettitt
Why Paul chose this one:
I’m a huge fan of industrial art and especially those that depict stillness in normally busy places — a moment of peace amongst the noise, which could be a description of any art!
What public art means to Paul:
Public art is vital in bridging a gap (real or perceived) between all types of people. People who would never go to a gallery because they don’t think art is ‘for people like them’ get to connect with art in their everyday lives. That might be enough to inspire people to try to make art themselves.
Like any type of art, it is a snapshot in time that must be preserved so that in the future, we can look back and know, ‘that’s how it was.’
Business Project Coordinator
Blair’s favorite piece:
Spectrum III by Mia Yoon
Why Blair chose this one:
Spectrum III is a fun, unexpected artwork in the most mundane place: a hallway. Yoon’s careful, meticulous work translated into a clean, vibrant, almost living sculpture. The piece invites interaction; indeed, there are several photographs of a person reaching toward the artwork in the artwork record.
It has a quality the best public art has: no additional explanation is required to appreciate its value and emotional impact. Effective public art invites even (and especially) those whose lives include very little interaction with fine art. With its colorful simplicity, Spectrum III says, “I am art, and I am joy.”
Communications & Marketing Manager
Justine’s favorite piece:
Sing the River by Po Shu Wang
Why Justine chose this one:
I was first captivated by this sculpture’s unique form, and how its shape gives the viewer a new perspective of the Mississippi River. Reading further, I was intrigued to see the artist’s use of technology in this piece — river sensors that, as the river’s flow behavior changes, orchestrate song fragments selected from all genres of American Roots Music. As a music lover myself, I found it inspiring to see a public art piece that honors the voices of the past.
You can also see this piece on the PAA Anniversary Map!
Customer Experience Coordinator
Aliah favorite piece:
Red Rocks Overlook by Jim Colbert
Why Aliah chose this one:
I picked this artwork piece because it is a representation of comfort and happiness. When viewing this piece, my mind goes to the Red Rocks amphitheater, which holds a lot of memories: Graduations, Concerts, and beautiful hikes!
What public art means to Aliah:
Public art means everyone gets the opportunity to view the world from a different perspective. We can see through the artist’s eyes from their artwork, giving everyone a light of inspiration.
Customer Experience Coordinator
Ayanna’s favorite piece:
I See What You Mean™ by Lawrence Argent
Also known as The Blue Bear
Why Ayanna chose this one:
I chose this artwork because it was a part of my childhood growing up near Denver. Everyone knew about the “Blue Bear,” and it became a part of the city in such a natural way.
What public art means to Ayanna:
When I think about “public art” and what it means, I instantly picture this piece. It helped to inspire a love for art in many people, especially my younger self!
Raquel’s favorite piece:
Red Dress by Shohini Ghosh
Why Raquel chose this one:
I chose this piece because its location is near me. When I first saw the Red Dress piece situated within a garden, setting it was so unexpected and lively. The dancing lady in the red dress in a garden is just so happy and carefree. I love that.
What public art means to Raquel:
I appreciate that I can experience public art in obvious and unexpected spaces — that brings me joy. I’m grateful that I can have that experience for free.
As a member of the initial team involved in developing the Public Art Archive, we knew early on that we would use CaFÉ to start the content collection for the PAA because we were certain that artists would be the first to submit their works, and they did. In CaFÉ, we work with many towns and cities with public art programs, and I also encourage them to submit their collection to the Archive to help us continue bringing attention to new artists and new public works.
Business Project Manager
Natalie’s favorite piece:
Shoe of Shoes by Victoria Fuller
Why Natalie chose this one:
I chose this artwork because I love seeing the imagination of artists. There’s something so special about seeing how regular household items can come together to create artwork. I love the idea that there are a lot of smaller things that help create this artwork!
What public art means to Natalie:
One thing that makes public art so special is that anyone can access and experience this art. Growing up, I didn’t always have access to museums and galleries, so experiencing the artwork around the city was one way I could connect with the visual world. PAA makes finding and experiencing the artwork so much easier and I can’t wait to explore more!
Submit your own public art to the Public Art Archive.
Have artwork of your own that’s on display to the public? Submit your work to be added to the Public Art Archive’s database! To be considered for inclusion, you must be a professional artist who has completed and installed public artwork or an administrator of an established public art program. There is no charge to submit entries to the Public Art Archive. Click here for more information and to submit your work to the PAA.
Written by Communications & Marketing Manager Justine Chapel