Olivia Gude: The power of public art to transform communities

Can public art really benefit the public? Can it create engaging and meaningful places for visitors and residents? Can intergenerational arts projects form new communities of understanding, interest, respect and affection?

“Absolutely,” says Olivia Gude, who teaches art education at the School for the Art Institute of Chicago and spoke in Des Moines on June 21 as part of the Tomorrow Plan Speaker Series. She discussed how public art projects can create vibrant public spaces and transform community life for all ages.

An artist herself, Gude (pronounced GOO-dee) has created more than 50 mural and mosaic projects nationwide. She is the founding director of the Spiral Workshop, a curriculum-research project that provides art classes for urban teens, and she has spoken throughout the United States, Canada, Korea and Singapore about the transformative power of community art.

“Arts and culture create more inviting and engaging public spaces – along with the random, spontaneous experiences that make regions more vibrant,” said Sally Dix, executive director of Bravo Greater Des Moines, which is co-sponsoring Gude’s visit. “The most active and dynamic communities are those that figure out how to leverage arts, culture and heritage to enhance social cohesion and celebrate diverse local identities.”

Examples of public art abound here in Greater Des Moines. Teva Dawson and Mat Greiner, co-directors of Group Creative Services, a local arts-consulting firm and another co-sponsor of the event, plan to discuss some of their current projects during a brief preview before the keynote address.

“Our community is eager for new cultural experiences,” said Greiner, an assistant professor of art and design at Grand View University. “Imaginative public art helps people fall in love with places and the people in them.”

The Tomorrow Plan Speaker Series is an implementation strategy of The Tomorrow Plan, a plan for the sustainable development of Greater Des Moines.

Thank you to the generous sponsors of this event.