Infecting the City 2012
Public Arts

Brett Bailey, curator of  Infecting The City speaks about Public Art and the Festival.

What is the definition of public art?

‘Public art’ needs to be freely accessible to everybody in a public space. Defining ‘art’ is a much more difficult task…

Why public art in Cape Town?

The arts are important for the general health of society, but tucked away in galleries and theatres, art is beyond the reach of most people.
We moved the Spier Performing Arts Festival into the centre of Cape Town 4 years ago because we saw a need to give interesting performing art works an outdoor public platform where they can be accessible to people from all walks of life.

Why is this important when there are so many other things to spend money on?

Why are the arts in general important when there are so many pressing matters in need of money? Education? Health care? Housing? Employment? Sanitation? …
We all know that this is a difficult question to answer.
But we also know that the arts give us hope, joy, beauty, stimulation… They can express ideas, emotions and beliefs that we have no other way of articulating or understanding.
We have valued creative expression since we gathered in caves tens of thousands of years ago. We are doomed to art.
Public art exists for everybody. In a society as divided and stratified as ours, such phenomena are vital.

What is the role of the Festival?

Our society has many complex issues, so if one is taking command of the communal spaces of the City, it is not enough merely to provide entertainment for the public. There is a responsibility to tackle the pressing issues of our day, and to ask artists to apply themselves to these, so that we can build a more civic-minded society together.
‘Moving the arts towards the centre of society’ is one of the aims of the Festival. But this implies more than just a physical move to the CBD. It also means engaging meaningfully with society.

What is the effect of public art on communal spaces?

Art in public spaces activates and energises those spaces, and stimulates people. It makes us engage with the world around us. It claims a space in our society for beauty, values, creativity, ideas and questions, and thereby fosters civic pride: ‘Look!’ we can say, ‘We are a community that esteems these qualities.’

For more information on Public Art as a movement, click on this link to Wikipedia.