The Macksey Journal


The contemporary approach to public art tends to view these projects as fun, but kitschy. While in many instances, art in public spaces may be intended to be primarily entertaining, these projects also hold the potential to reimagine communities in ways that cannot be tapped without recognizing this possibility. I propose an analysis of public art that considers three aspects: lusory, community, and critical. Lusory art in public spaces invites viewers to engage with play in the urban environment which primarily values efficiency over leisure. Art in public spaces can also lend itself to establishing or highlighting community ties, either by illustrating a shared history or giving a physical presence to specific cultural groups. Finally, critical art challenges viewers to reimagine their place in the spaces they inhabit and their relationships with others, recognizing social issues and confronting us with it. By studying national examples, as well as examples specifically in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I investigate the ways public art allows an opportunity to intentionally reimagine the urban environment to be more inclusive. I specifically consider the upcoming project to commemorate the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. I found that although public art cannot completely reconcile tragic histories such as these, projects hold the potential to encourage confrontation with the ways these histories continue to manifest.