Mercer University Students Partner with Macon Arts Alliance to Create Online Database of Public Art in Macon-Bibb County
This semester, students enrolled in PHI 260, "Philosophy of the Arts," are focused on the study of public art in Macon-Bibb County. The first service project of the class involved digitizing information about existing public art in the area from Macon Arts Alliance’s archives. In order to provide an up-to-date account, students took new photographs, made 360-degree videos, and assessed the conditions of each work of public art. All the information gathered was posted to the online database that also functions as a comprehensive snapshot of the state of public art in Macon-Bibb County.
"When Dr. Rosental approached Macon Arts Alliance about working with the class, we brainstormed about our involvement. We decided the best place to start was to gather information about the public art that already existed," said Jonathan Dye, director of communications at Macon Arts Alliance. "So students were charged with digitizing the information and Macon Arts Alliance is making it available online through our existing website."
“The consolidation of the government into Macon-Bibb started me thinking about the community in new ways,” said Dr. Rosental, associate professor and chair of Mercer’s Philosophy Department. “I realized that the Knight Neighborhood Challenge, which funded proposals to advance the College Hill Corridor Master Plan, was starting to emphasize public art proposals. Public art is very interesting in that it can both reflect and create a community. Taking a cue from my colleague Peter Brown, whose class originated the idea for the College Hill Corridor, I thought it would be valuable for my students to work with the community to develop a public art program for Macon-Bibb.”
“The database is particularly exciting for us as students,” said Ryan Walters, a student in the Philosophy of Public Arts course. “With a lot of service-learning work, the results can be ambiguous or immeasurable, but what we have right here is so tangible, the impact is very real. On top of this, the project has embedded us in the midst of Macon's rapid cultural growth, and it’s with this common value of public art, which is very inspiring. I am thrilled to be presenting the first phase of our work to the Macon community, and I look forward to seeing where this project takes us alongside its cultural vitalization.”
Monica Hoyle, who is enrolled in the public art class at Mercer, said, “I'm excited to work on this. I can't wait to see the end result and I hope that this helps other people learn more about the different kinds of art around the city.”
“It’s so inspiring to be a part of a class that is actively working to make a difference in our community. Public art is such a vital, yet often overlooked, aspect of our society, and I hope that our collective efforts will serve to not only benefit Middle Georgians, but also generate conversation about important issues in the arts arena,” said Anna Mae Kersey, another student working on the public art database.
“Macon is a historic city within this state,” said Sean Zaragoza, who is enrolled in Dr. Rosental’s class. “In recent years, our exuberant and colorful history has been overshadowed by the declining state of this city. Public art is a way that we as a city can unite under and live in the continued memory of the strong history that the people of Macon were once proud of and celebrated.”
Mercer student Joshua Soave said, “I’m glad to see this project take off so well. Macon should take time to reevaluate its public art program because this is the kind of thing that can unite or divide a community. “
With the database now online, students will continue to study the goals and trends of public art nationally, how public art programs are administered and how public art is maintained in other communities. Through continued partnership with Macon Arts Alliance, the College Hill Corridor Commission's Public Art Committee and other stakeholders, the class intends to develop a proposal for a new public art ordinance for Macon-Bibb County. This proposal will be created through consultation with the mayor and county commission and presented to the consolidated government when it is complete.
About Macon Arts Alliance
Macon Arts Alliance is a 501c3 non-profit organization and the designated local arts agency of Macon-Bibb County. Its mission is to foster and support the advancement of arts and culture in Central Georgia. Macon Arts Alliance works to create an environment where arts and culture thrive and Central Georgia is recognized as an unparalleled cultural destination.