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Unfamiliar Objects in Familiar Spaces:
The Public Response to Art-in-Architecture

Working Paper #8, 1999

Steven J. Tepper

Over the last three decades the federal government, through its Art-in-Architecture program, has funded more than 200 permanent art installations in cities throughout America. This study examines the public response to a sample of 41 such public art projects and attempts to illuminate the factors that lead to official or organized conflict. Findings suggest that controversies are most likely to erupt over abstract art placed in relatively small cities and cities experiencing high rates of population growth. This is especially true when the community is not asked to participate in the project in any meaningful way. And although artistic freedom is the norm, in a few cases, community participation led to editing of provocative or challenging content from a proposed artwork.

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