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Public Art: The Soul of a City

in News 2 min read

I’ve been thinking a lot about public art lately—how it makes me feel, how it improves our community, and the enormous impact it has on our city’s identity. From towering letters that literally spell ART, to the Aminah Robinson mural winding its way up the central staircase of the soon-to-be renovated main branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, Columbus is full of distinguishing features.

Tom Katzenmeyer

Tom Katzenmeyer, president of the Greater Columbus Arts Council

Recently the library’s board of trustees unanimously voted to approve a contract with artist Virginia Overton to commission a new sculpture as part of the main branch renovation.

Overton, a Nashville native living in Brooklyn, submitted a concept that intertwines the history of the library with that of the city and its citizens. She tends to use salvaged materials in her work, and she plans to use salvage from the renovation of the library in this commissioned work of art. The idea that pieces of the old library will be resurrected and incorporated into the new library really resonates with me.

As a member of the library’s art committee I’ve been gratified to see the board and Executive Director Patirck Losinski place a premium on the importance of public art in their plans, not just in the main branch renovation but in each branch throughout the city. I’ve been gratified but not surprised. Patrick has long been a raging advocate for public art—regularly sending me photos from his travels as he stumbles upon inspiring works of art.

The library and its board clearly understand the emotional impact that public art has on public spaces. They know that a public work can create a sense of shared, communal space. Works like Aminah Robinson’s can define who we’ve been and who we are in a way that generates great pride. I appreciate that the library is taking such great pains to ensure that her mural is carefully preserved and re-installed once the renovation is complete.

Public art impacts how people perceive our city and whether they want to live here. Columbus is not a sterile, soulless place of cinderblock and steel. We have color and brushstrokes, we value creativity and innovation, and we embrace the concept that art, beauty, and expression are for everyone—we have art in our public spaces. What could be more engaging and inclusive?

Image of Aminah Robinson mural courtesy of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

— Tom Katzenmeyer Keep up with Tom’s adventures on Twitter: @tomkatzenmeyer