Journal article Open Access

Socializing Sculpture: Commemorative Public Art as a Pedagogical Tool

Piper Prolago

Art Style | Art & Culture International Magazine


As protestors across the world call for the toppling of statues celebrating racist figures, cities must consider what new narratives and designs for public art can most appropriately and inclusively engage communities in conversations about the past. While many studies center on finding anti-racist figures to instead celebrate, I propose a method for evaluating projects that centers upon critical pedagogy and community involvement rather than emulating the monumental hero model with new heroes. In this way, we might envision a more inclusive commemorative landscape by entirely reimagining its structure. While the public may trust monuments to present an unbiased account of history, implicit in their status as representations of history is their interpretive nature, which is necessarily situated in a particular viewpoint. Creators must maximize the potential of public spaces to communicate to a wider audience while also considering the historic asymmetries that continue to favor white, male perspectives within these spaces. Public art serves as a potential tool to reshape cityscapes and address historic injustices. This paper investigates projects’ abilities to meet this potential by combining scholarship in critical pedagogy and memory studies, as well as analyzing existing projects in terms of their educational and interactive qualities. I conclude that public art projects addressing historical injustices must incorporate inclusive pedagogical models like those of Paulo Freire and bell hooks. Tulsa’s Greenwood Art Project, which commemorates the 1921 Race Massacre, might serve as a model for this. Head artist Rick Lowe, informed by the theory of social sculpture, is able to address community members’ various perspectives, not just in the realization of the project but in all levels of its conception. By rethinking the relationship between artist and audience, public art projects have the potential to incorporate previously erased perspectives without positing a single, universal truth. 

Art Style, Art & Culture International Magazine is an open-access, biannual, and peer-reviewed online magazine that aims to bundle cultural diversity. All values of cultures are shown in their varieties of art. Beyond the importance of the medium, form, and context in which art takes its characteristics, art is considered the significance of socio-cultural, historical, and market influence.
Files (2.4 MB)
Name Size
Piper_Socializing Sculpture_Art_Style_ISSUE_8_1_[57-78].pdf
2.4 MB Download
All versions This version
Views 8233
Downloads 5815
Data volume 143.4 MB36.4 MB
Unique views 7530
Unique downloads 5014


Cite as