Public art takes many forms in the East Valley, from the depiction of lizards on walls lining Loop 101 in Scottsdale to stainless steel arches sheltering people at bus stops in Tempe.
The area’s growth has spawned thriving public art programs, and created a need for artists who understand the challenges inherent to public art and people to administer these programs.
In response, Arizona State University plans to offer an 18-hour master’s-level certificate program in public art this fall.
"Public art has been recognized as a vital way to connect people to their communities," said Dianne Cripe, spokeswoman for the Herberger College of Fine Arts.
"For communities, (public art) becomes a sense of pride."
Public art also creates first impressions for visitors and newcomers, such as the sculptures and murals in Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
ASU’s public art program, the only one in the state, is intended to help students enter what has become a nationally competitive field, Cripe said.
The curriculum will feature an eclectic group of lecturers including art professors, risk managers, city lawyers, public art project managers and art conservators.
Public art isn’t new in the United States. In 1959, Philadelphia became the first U.S. city to establish a public arts program, setting aside a percentage of funds spent on construction for art.
Cities such as Tempe and Scottsdale followed Philadelphia’s example in the 1980s.
More than 50 public art works have been commissioned in Scottsdale since the city started its program.