A large variety of art occupies many of our public spaces across the state, providing a spectrum of styles and designs that can be both beloved and controversial. The 1936 Centennial celebration efforts placed twenty statues and forty-five monuments throughout the state. The Works Progress Administration put artist to work during the Depression giving Texas a post office mural collection. Today, many Texas cities and university systems sponsor public art programs paying local and nationally-known artists to create art for projects at libraries, parks, airports, and streetscapes portraying local history and values.
Art communicates and provokes. Perhaps you prefer traditional, representational works like the life-sized bronze cattle drive thundering across Dallas’ Pioneer Plaza or the larger-than-life-sized roadrunner in Fort Stockton’s public square (see it wearing a Santa Claus stocking hat during the holidays!). Maybe you prefer a more pop aesthetic like El Paso native son Louis Jimenez’ fiberglass alligator sculpture commemorating the real creatures that once occupied the alligator pool at the center of downtown San Jacinto Plaza. Or maybe you’re partial to more abstract work like artist James Surls “Point of View” in Houston’s Market Square Park or Louise Bourgeois’ carved marble “Eyes”, one of the landmark contemporary works on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. Public art in Texas runs the gamut from commemorative murals to state heroes carved in stone or cast in bronze to out-sized welded steel in all shapes and sizes. Public art programs help finance much of this work, exposing citizens to a breadth and depth of art styles (and art history) that can be had simply by strolling through a plaza or driving around the block.