City Building As a Boundary Object: Lessons from Toronto's Public-Art Ecosystem

Monday, 16 July 2018: 15:45
Oral Presentation
Daniel SILVER, University of Toronto, Canada
Noga KEIDAR, University of Toronto, Canada
The growth of public art has emerged dramatically in the last century, and particularly through the 1980s with the entry of Percentage for Art ordinances in many cities. Today, thought public art is identified with different values, like community building, enhancing the aesthetics of the built-environment and more (Cartiere & Zebracki, 2016), its integration into policy frameworks across the globe is seen mainly as an economic tool to compete to attract business and capital (Speight, 2016; Saukkonen, 2013). However, in practice “city building” is a heterogeneous process, and the operation that takes place during the production of public-art involves multiple stakeholders, who embrace different sets of perspectives and professional tools. Instead of assuming that aesthetic, social and cultural values, are being washed-out and trumped by economic logic alone, we suggest analyzing public-art as a Boundary Object (Star and Griesemer, 1989; Leigh-Star, 2011), an entity which is plastic enough to be used independently by different parties, while maintaining a common identity among them. We explore Toronto’s public-art ecosystem by using 30 interviews and two focus-groups with main players, including public-art officers, planners, city councilors, developers, not for-profit stakeholders, artists, architects, art consultants, and the public itself – who are all operating together to produce public-art in the city. By mapping their positions regarding the way public-art should be operated and the way they translate their perspectives to one another, we show how stakeholders with diverging interests and perspectives operate together without necessarily reaching a consensus.