By Jennifer Sadler

What Is Public Art?  What Does It Mean for Our Community?

What is public art? The answer is multifaceted. Public art encompasses a wide variety of creative expressions in the public realm. Public art can be a giant red sculpture that spells the word ART and straddles a street on an arts campus, a professionally designed mural three stories high, a limestone sculpture in the shape of a sofa on a city sidewalk for anyone to use, or large-scale sculptures in an expanse of green space depicting a field of corn. Public art can be almost anything—and it doesn’t require the price of admission or even a trip outside of your own neighborhood.

Public art can make us stop and open our eyes. It can refresh our perspectives by transforming a city’s public spaces, putting us in a position of making new discoveries rather than simply passing through them each day. The experience of viewing public art is dynamic and the relationship between the work and its site, its audience and other contextual factors all contribute to its impact.

But public art is just that—public. And because of this, it can become a lightning rod, especially in complex community projects where factors such as territoriality and dissenting viewpoints exist. Public art can also attract controversy due to how it obtains funding and its prominent place in public spaces. The meaning and possibilities of great public art are often not grasped immediately upon installation. Consider the Statue of Liberty, the Gateway Arch and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial—all of these projects were incredibly controversial. It wasn’t until years or even decades later that these public art works became both valued icons and an integral part of the fabric of our American culture.

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As the most comprehensive online events guide and resource for arts and culture in central Ohio, offers a virtual guide through the Columbus art world with a searchable database of events, concerts, performances and more. is an engaging place for artists and arts organizations to share what they do, with an average of 30,000 users per month.  The Artist Directory allows visual, performing and literary artists to create a profile and portfolio to showcase their work—for free. Artists can upload images, PDFs, video and sound files, and promote upcoming events. The directory enables art enthusiasts to easily search for and connect with local artists.  Front Row Center will highlight artist(s) from the directory each month so you can learn more about the many talented individuals who make up central Ohio’s thriving creative community.  GCAC recently interview local artists Todd Slaughter and Helma Groot to learn more about their respective work in the realm of public art.

Todd Slaughter

Local artist Todd Slaughter is professor in The Ohio State University’s Department of Art's sculpture program. He has held many solo and group exhibitions, both nationally and internationally. His sculptural installations have been exhibited by the Aronoff Center for the Arts and the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, the Akron Art Museum, the Neuberger Museum of Art, (NY), Artists Space and PS 1, New York, NY, and a major retrospective at the Chicago Cultural Center. Permanent public works can be found throughout Columbus and in the Midway Airport, Chicago, and Tarifa/Algeciras, Spain.  

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Helma Groot

Helma Groot is a Dutch artist living in Columbus. She is represented by the Ward gallery in Harbor Springs, Michigan, the River gallery in Chelsea, Michigan, The Art Store in Charleston, West Virginia, and Art Access Gallery in Columbus. Groot's recent solo shows include Port Columbus Airport, West Liberty State College in West Virginia, Ohio Dominican University in Columbus and the Argyle gallery in Newark, Ohio. She has created public art pieces for the American Cancer Society, the Dublin Arts Council, American Art Resources, Toledo Childrens Hospital, Bexley High School, SKOR in the Netherlands, and others. She was featured on HGTV's That's Clever in 2007. After attending high school in Jakarta, Indonesia, Stuttgart, Germany and Holland, Michigan, Groot graduated from the Columbus College of Art and Design in 1989 and studied furniture making in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

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Jazz Arts Group, BalletMet and WOSU Present Jazz Moves Columbus

Celebrate Columbus’ bicentennial with three of our city’s treasures! Three of Columbus’ best organizations – Jazz Arts Group, BalletMet and WOSU Public Media – have developed an innovative and unprecedented collaboration to celebrate Columbus’ past, present and future through the first major presentation of the 200Columbus celebration – Jazz Moves Columbus.

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Carpe Diem Quartet & Columbus Children’s Choir Present Voices of Angels

Carpe Diem and guest artists, the exceptionally talented New World Singers of the Columbus Children’s Choir, present Voices of Angels. The performance will feature works for strings and choir, including Stolzel (formerly attrib. J.S. Bach) Stanojevick, Glick, Fujiwara and works for quartet by Taneyev, Visconti and Evan Chambers.

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Columbus Museum of Art Presents Columbus Views

Columbus Views celebrates the Bicentennial of the City of Columbus. The exhibition, drawn primarily from the CMA's collection, gathers works by artists such as George Bellows, Emerson Burkhart, Edmund Kuehn, Robert Chadeayne and others who were compelled to translate the charms of the city’s various locales and neighborhoods onto canvas and into photographic prints.

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