Kasper's 'More Art in the Public Eye' Offers Critical Insight into Socially-engaged Public Art
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
Jeff Kasper, assistant professor in the Department of Art, recently published More Art In the Public Eye (Duke University Press), which centers art and artists of marginalized communities in New York City and highlights new media and performance art that put a spotlight on social issues relevant to these communities. Co-edited with Micaela Martegani and Emma Drew, the book offers critical insight into the ever-growing field of socially-engaged public art by demonstrating how the collaboration of artists, community members, and cultural producers can meaningfully impact the future.
Presented through the lens of More Art—a nonprofit organization that supports collaborations between professional artists and communities to create public art and educational programs that inspire social justice—More Art in the Public Eye spans fifteen years of public art projects aimed at exposing issues of systemic inequality and injustice, stoking debate, and inspiring alternative solutions. Artists and participants reflect on their works in newly conducted interviews, while essays from thinkers and actors in the field help situate the projects and the mission of socially engaged art in terms of greater cultural and political paradigms.
“Traditionally, the upper crust of the art world has never fully embraced the growing socially-engaged art movement,” says Professor Kasper. “It has been labeled as not ‘high art’ enough, possibly because this art spotlights the marginalized artists and communities the art world excludes.” Prof. Kasper says More Art in the Public Eye, “carves out its own space for socially conscious public art,” using key moments in New York City and American history—spanning protest movements, gentrification, and debates on memorials and memorialization—as context.
With the goal of giving the reader a look at the experience of being an artist or community member experiencing art, More Art in the Public Eye includes more than 100 colorful photographs and illustrations of artwork of all shapes and sizes. The beginning of each chapter includes a map of New York City, which points out the locations of community-centered art pieces, presentations, and performances beyond those hosted by museums and galleries.
The book received early praise by many scholars on the topic of public art and politics, including Carol Becker, Dean of Columbia University School of the Arts and author of Thinking in Place: Art, Action, and Cultural Production, who said, “More Art in the Public Eye contextualizes the evolution of socially-engaged art practice that has gained much momentum in the last decades. This anthology addresses the impact such work has had on society in relationship to the complex issues facing our species, other sentient beings, and the planet. It throws down the gauntlet to artists, writers, thinkers, and activists, encouraging and inspiring us all to be fearless as we address the truly urgent conversations of the twenty-first century.”
The book was also the subject of public programs at Moore College of Art in Philadelphia and the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, institutions recognized for teaching and discourse on socially engaged art.
Currently, excerpts of the book are available on Medium.