Fort Myers is one of more than a dozen Florida communities that has registered public artworks on the Public Art Archive. In fact, the March 2013 News Briefs of the Florida Association of Public Art Professionals reports that to date, the Public Art Archive now includes nearly 400 artworks throughout the state.
The Public Art Archive is a project launched by the Western States Arts Federation or WESTAF. A sophisticated searchable database of public art in the United States, the Public Art Archive makes public art and its processes more accessible to the public by displaying images of registered pieces alongside an extensive description. Where available, supplementary audio and video files are also included.
WESTAF has a long history of involvement in the public art domain. In 1976, WESTAF published % for Art: New Legislation Can Integrate Arts and Architecture, a groundbreaking report in the field. The Archive uses a categorization vocabulary that is consistent with the Getty's Art & Architecture Thesaurus and Interpol's Object ID initiative which provide standardized descriptions that are readily understood around the world.
But its benefit to participating communities is the access it provides not only to area residents, but to cultural tourists, business visitors and other people and organizations from around the world who have an interest in public art. Thus, Fort Myers' presence on the PAA can be used by the Lee County Visitors & Convention Bureau, Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce, Lee County Alliance for the Arts and every for-profit and nonprofit arts and cultural organization to induce locals and out-of-towners to attend the exhibitions, festivals and other events they organize and promote.
And Fort Myers is not alone in taking advantage of the benefits afforded by the Public Art Archive. The Florida Art in State Buildings program has already registered four recent projects, the Charlotte County Health Department, the Frost Art Museum, Jackson County Health Department and three public artworks located out at Florida Gulf Coast University. The following Florida public art programs have too:
- Broward County
- Marilyn A. Wall Foundation
- Miami International Airport(Donald Lipski collection) Got Any Jacks
- Orange County
- Palm Beach County
- Volusia County
Experts have long recognized the role public art plays in attracting cultural tourists, but a recent survey conducted by Gallup in tandem with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation of 43,000 people in 26 communities over a 3-year period beginning in 2008 discovered that more than schools, low crime rates and economic opportunity, public art is the factor that most inspires people to locate and remain in a community.
"A city’s art, parks, and green spaces are more important than education, safety, and the local economy” when it comes to inducing residents to develop a binding attachment to the town or city in which they live, the report noted. And this doesn’t change much from one place to another.
“This is not to say that jobs and housing aren’t important,” Gallup and the Knight Founation go on to say. “Residents must be able to meet their basic needs in a community in order to stay. However, when it comes to forming an emotional connection with the community, there are other community factors which often are not considered when thinking about economic development. These community factors seem to matter more when it comes to attaching residents to their community.”
Demographics don’t alter this conclusion either. “While we do see differences in attachment among different demographic groups, demographics generally are not the strongest drivers of attachment. In almost every community, we found that a resident’s perceptions of the [community's aesthetics] are more strongly linked to their level of community attachment than to that person’s age, ethnicity, work status, etc.”
But maximum advantage can only be derived from public art to the extent that residents, visitors and the business community know about it. The Public Art Archive is an important step in this direction.
To browse all the collections that are represented on the Public Art Archive, please click here.
Initial registration of Fort Myers' public artworks on cultureNOW, a second public art website, has already been completed. Registration of the collection on both sites is taking place pursuant to an Individual Artist Grant awarded by the City of Fort Myers, and the initiative is already bringing the city, the River District, and Fort Myers public art collection global attention and acclaim.