Don’t be afraid of Ethnicity

Don’t be afraid of public artwork that strongly demonstrates its origination in  ethnic visual traditions.  Murals can be show people from different backgrounds or painted in the art traditions of non-western cultures.  Why can’t public sculptures be bronze castings of African masks.  Why can’t ceramic murals clearly originate in the traditions of Spanish or Moroccan wall and floor tiles?

In the 19th and 20th century, the dominant art establishment and intellectuals believed that progress and newness in art came exclusively from the artistic inventions in Europe and then the Americas.  Still today, despite the great respect in museums and universities for all traditions in art, the vast majority of public art is dominated by euro-american art.

One major flaw of public art thinking is that works from other cultural traditions should only be seen in the neighborhoods of those ethnic communities.  It is sometimes known as “race matching”.   Art about or by African Americans should be seen in African American neighborhoods, not in the center of downtown.

Given the 150 years of public art in the USA and Florida, some catching up may be required in African American, Caribbean, Mexican and South American neighborhoods.  Pride in community through public art is still a valuable service.

In the 21st century, many mature and talented artists exist from any cultural or ethnic backgrounds.  Many ethnic traditions have been continued by contemporary artists and craftspersons.  Perhaps ethnic and cultural diversity in a public art collection is the true new future.


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