What’s Bad About Spoonvilles?: Investigating Pedagogies of Kindness and Connection Through Community-Engaged Art Projects in Public Space
When the pandemic struck I felt that art had nothing to offer in such an apocalypse. But after being involved in participatory art projects I saw them as pedagogical vehicles, connecting people through shared experiences and emotions. Many participatory projects were made by the public and placed physically in public space—banners, murals, chalk drawings and collections of decorated spoons under the auspices of ‘kindness’, ‘joy’ and ‘hope’. Commonly these projects encouraged the people to create and contribute something, focussing on connecting people to the artworks and connecting them to a particular community.
Alongside the actual site of the physical artworks, they also existed online. Images shared through social connections via the internet often facilitated more participants and an audience for artworks. Ironically some of these facets of the artwork are very personal and private instead of public. These private moments of making and encounter (integral to public art) can question our assumptions about the publicness of public art. We assume that such projects connect, include and benefit the public—but ‘community’ can also exclude—perhaps evidenced by responses of threats or the destruction of the artworks. Besides sweet platitudes, what does evidence bear out?