Ideas such as these quoted from the book, Locating the Producers Durational Approaches to Public Art, by Paul O’Neill and Claire Doherty are what I think is missing in the St. Louis discussion around community art.
Community engagement with art is considered as something that might be generative rather than fixed, integrated rather than separate, dialogical rather than at a distance.
I was asked several times by funders to specifically identify the community of NODhouse before I received funding. I had a hard time getting them to understand that the installation of NODhouse could be the start of the community. As the authors say in the book, As such, the community is perceived as being provisionally formed….which is gathered during the process of production and mediation of dialogical public art – an art that relates to a ‘public’ that is a constantly changing and flexible entity rather than a static collection of individual subjects.
I see a distinction between this type of engagement and that of, what is most often understood as public art, where one piece (possibly large in scale) is created with members of a specific community with the goal of empowering that community. I have created several works using this model and I think they are significant for both the people who help create them and the people who live near them. I just don’t think they are the only way to engage community or the way that should be privileged in our grant-awarding or discussion of community art.