Giving Thanks, Art for the Community


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By Joanna Scardapane

In a world marked by the constant hustle and bustle of everyday life, we often forget to take a moment to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us. Art has the power to transform mundane spaces into vibrant landscapes of creativity, infusing life into our surroundings and bringing people together. When artists share their talents with the community, it not only beautifies our surroundings but also fosters a sense of unity and gratitude. In this article, we explore the importance of art for the community and how it fosters a spirit of giving thanks.

Montefiore

Art is often considered a universal language that transcends cultural, linguistic, and geographic barriers. It speaks to our emotions and transcends the limits of words. By sharing their art, artists convey their unique perspectives and emotions to the community. This language of creativity fosters a sense of connection and understanding, allowing people from diverse backgrounds to come together in appreciation of the artistic experience.

Public spaces become transformed when artists, often working in collaboration with local communities, engage in the creation of public art. Murals, sculptures, and installations enliven neighborhoods and urban environments, making them more inviting and inspiring. These artistic interventions can turn once-neglected spaces into vibrant centers of activity, fostering a renewed sense of pride in themselves and in their home. Public art often reflects the values and stories of the community, making it more meaningful and relatable to the people who live there. When residents encounter artwork in their everyday lives, it can serve as a source of inspiration and a reminder of the beauty that exists in the world. It reinforces to them that they are part of a whole– something larger than themselves–which they can participate in and have reliable support from.

Art Community
Photo credit by Community Murals

Artistic projects that involve the community in their creation promote a sense of belonging and ownership. When people participate in the creation of art that will be displayed publicly, it becomes a reflection of their identity and values. This sense of ownership fosters a deep connection to the community and its shared spaces, as individuals feel personally invested in the art and its impact on the neighborhood. Moreover, public art can serve as a conversation starter, bringing people together to discuss their shared cultural heritage, history, and aspirations. Art installations often spark discussions that lead to greater community cohesion and collaboration.

Art is a powerful medium for drawing attention to social issues. Artists often use their work to address important topics like environmental conservation, social justice, mental health, and more. Public art installations that tackle such subjects can serve as a catalyst for community engagement and activism. They provide a visual representation of the issues at hand, inspiring individuals to take action and create positive change within their communities. Involving the community in artistic endeavors encourages a culture of gratitude. When people see the transformation of their neighborhoods through art, they become more appreciative of the efforts put forth by artists, volunteers, and local authorities. This appreciation extends to other aspects of community life, fostering a positive outlook on the environment they inhabit.

Art Community
Credit: Mario Tama/Getty

New York City is home to over 350 public art installations. Most recently, an asphalt mural created by Zara Stasi will be installed within a new pedestrian area on Fleet Place and Willoughby Street in Brooklyn. The mural, designed and carried out by volunteers from the local community, celebrates the Black Huckleberry plant species, a plant native to the New York metropolitan area. Not only does the mural add color to the neighborhood, it’s practical as well, creating a safer area for pedestrians and bicyclists while educating passersby on the local fauna found in their home state. Over the summer, the Center for Educational Innovation presented BENCHMARKS: Youth Setting the Standard for Social Change, where students created original designs for park benches featured in all five boroughs of the city. Students were encouraged to focus on social issues existing in their lives such as racism, gender inequality, drug abuse, homelessness, religious intolerance, and more. 

Art Community
Students from the Joseph Pulitzer School IS 145 in Jackson Heights offer a message of unity on its bench. Photo by Mark Lord

Here at Agora Gallery, our artists are also doing their part to bring awareness to their communities through their work. Alli Gerrish is a Boulder-based artist working in both digital media and traditional techniques to create abstract representations of widespread human experiences. Her work is inspired by the intrinsic feelings and circumstances shared by all people worldwide, hoping to create a bond between cultures by highlighting things we all have in common, such as joy, fear, chaos, and beauty. The brightly colored and energetic pieces feature a variety of shapes and figures, evoking a “visual language to heal our hearts and minds and hopefully create a source of inspiration for how we would like to move forward in our future.”

Alli Gerrish
Alli Gerrish, Honoring Essence, 2023, digital print on fine art paper, 35″ x 35″
Alli Gerrish
Alli Gerrish, Letting Someone Go, metal print, 14″ x 14″

Another artist using her work to give attention to her cultural origin is Abeer Al-Zaaied. Her bold, jewel-tone colored portraits “explore the rich tapestry of Saudi Arabian culture and identity embodied in the figures and expressions of women.” Al-Zaaied is directly inspired by Saudi Vision 2030, a program created by the Saudi Arabian government to enhance economic, social, and cultural diversification. The women in her portraits are simplified, minimalist shapes that sometimes even lack facial features, allowing the subjects to be interpreted by women everywhere who might identify with their own gender-related hurdles in life.

Abeer Al-Zaaied
Abeer Al-Zaaied, Hoopoe Talk 1, 2021, acrylic on Italian linen, 35″ x 30.5″
Abeer Al-Zaaied
Abeer Al-Zaaied, Hoopoe Talk 2, 2021, acrylic on Italian linen, 35″ x 30.5″

Art has a transformative power that goes beyond aesthetics. It brings people together, beautifies public spaces, fosters a sense of belonging, and raises awareness of important social issues. In doing so, art encourages a culture of gratitude within communities. Public art in particular serves as an enjoyable, easy-to-understand vehicle for deeper and more meaningful discussions that can be difficult to communicate otherwise. As we give thanks for the beauty that artists bring into our lives, let us also remember the importance of supporting and nurturing the artistic endeavors that enrich our communities. Public art not only enhances our surroundings but also elevates the human spirit, reminding us of the collective beauty and creativity that unites us all. This fall, we encourage you to explore the public art in your own neighborhood, or even take a step further and volunteer to participate in the next installation whose message means something to you and your community.


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