ESPACE art actuel, no 127 (Hiver 2021/Winter 2021)

Nowadays, art in public spaces is mainly presented by way of institutional programs that fall under the umbrella term "public art" (including the so-called 1% policies), which appear to favour artists from socially privileged categories, notably on the basis of their gender and ethnic group. Guided by openness and a desire to renew the field, this issue is a plea for greater diversity in public places; diversity of artists, artworks and their site locations, but also of the models and organizations that oversee the production and dissemination of practices. Reflecting a critical engagement with public spaces, the analysed approaches should be various propositions to rethink the dynamics that are set into motion among the various groups addressed by these works, including the publics.

While questions of equity and accessibility mobilize the cultural milieu, programs have been implemented to respond to questions of inclusivity that institutional public art processes raise. Some of these initiatives consist of one-off projects, such as the development of the Indigenous Art Park in Edmonton, curated by Candice Hopkins, that made it possible to create six permanent works by Indigenous artists from the Albertan capital region and the rest of Canada. Other approaches aim to reveal the systematic biases of current policies, as has been borne out by an initial report on cultural equity in the public art field that was published this year by the Americans for the Arts association. The focus is thus on approaches seeking to ensure that the artists who work in parks, squares and streets are more representative of the population. In this perspective, we welcome articles that examine sexual and gender diversity, including feminist and queer practices. Non-Western art practices and contexts are also of interest for this issue.

The multiplicity of contexts and intervention modes continues to be an underlying issue to diversify the (non-)publics of art. In this regard, collaboration with community groups in the making of artworks has been a fertile territory since the 1970s and 1980s, as the protagonists of the American 'new genre public art' and 'art in the public interest' movements have demonstrated. In city neighbourhoods as well as in the suburbs and regions, artists and organizations thus propose various types of encounters for citizens, by drawing, among other things, on cultural outreach, all the while going against the grain of spectacular urban entertainment events. By extension, programs have challenged the hierarchies that are inherent in public art commissions: as is the case with the Fondation de France's Protocol of the New Patrons, now established in many European countries, that puts the patron (who can be "any person within civil society") at the heart of the work's acquisition process. The analysis of such contributions could support the search for more inclusive processes regarding various publics.The public health measures put in place to confront the current COVID-19 health crisis has also forced us to rethink and reinvent public spaces—in terms of their development, management ad social functions. This exceptional time-out also presents an opportunity to imagine new roles for art outside of the official sites of artistic expression.