Arts » Arts Stories & Interviews

Goodbye to plop: the rise of real public art




Scott Andrews

Over the last decade or so two domains in the art world that were previously thought of as rather dull have taken on a new air of glamour. Fiber arts, once considered craft tradition and therefore (like anything with a folk or feminine heritage) not high art, are becoming the media of choice in installation art with a bent towards the conceptual.

Public art used to live in a boring land ruled by a fervent desire not to offend, but is finally no longer dominated by plop art bronzes. Public art is usually thought of as visual art in public space, often out of doors, that is funded by municipalities or non-profits that draw up environmental impact statements, poll the local neighborhoods for comment, and observe other niceties. Corporate art stuck outside is often mistaken for public art, but then — this being America — there is a wee bit of confusion between corporate and public territory.

Increasingly, propelled by the international festival movement, the public art funders that make public art public have been prone to add provocative temporary art installations and interactive event-based works to the mix.  Luminaria, next held this March 12 during Contemporary Art Month is a remarkable local example.

The broad category “art in public places” is sometimes used to include public art, the corporate stuff — as well as art on the street of the outlaw variety: unfunded but permitted to live, at least for a while.

This week we review some kicking fiber arts in the variant of knitted sculpture made of paper in the show Crossovers: Material and Metaphor at Blue Star Contemporary Art Center. Look for the write-up this Wednesday.

Outside Blue Star is some more knitting, a striped pole-warmer that qualifies as a good example of the outlaw variety of art in public. After poking around asking questions for a few days I’m still not sure who made it, but a group out of Austin — Knitta, Please — or a local affiliate, is high on my list of suspects.*  Their slogan is “we knit graffiti,” and they have pix to prove they’ve done so across the planet.

Hey, maybe I’m wrong, but you should know about them anyhow. Yep, they rock.

*update 2/2/11: Nope, it wasn't outside agitators but local talent Yarn Dawgz who done it. Read the full'update here.

Got info on this? Contact Scott Andrews at For more on public art in SA visit Public Art San Antonio at For more on contemporary public art check the industry bible “Forecast PublicArt” at

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