Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Maxine Wolf

Committee Members

Leanne Rivlin

Eugene Goossen

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Social Psychology


The sine qua non for an artwork in the urban realm is neither its judged "goodness" nor the ability of audiences to perceive it "correctly," but is the total experience the work contributes to as part of the fabric of interlocking meanings that places have in people's lives.

In urban settings, the physical attributes and private intentionality of a work do not stand alone. As carefully as an artist installs his/her pieces in a gallery, the same concern for their working together and with their total environment must be applied to artworks in complex public settings, where choice to be with artworks is eliminated de facto.

The information for the study was obtained through interviews and observations around selected agency-placed public artworks in New York City. The results indicate there is a new, broader philosophy to apply to understand the importance of art in public places.

It was found people generally appreciate that artworks exist in public settings, and they respond to diverse works. People's judgments about art include not simply like/dislike evaluations but interpretations of form, content, intent and associations to the works. Behaviors around works can be centripetal or centrifugal and sometimes do not agree with positive or negative verbal responses. Such findings indicate that experience with works and places is variegated: a negative response to a work is not necessarily "bad," but is part of a range of experience which can be interpreted.

The author proposes a new construct to explain the impact of public art: an Evocative-Provocative Continuum postulates that experiences with artworks vary in intensity and meaning as a function of the interwoven relationships among the qualities of the work, the setting, and the people together. These relationships balance or not to affect experience. Approaching art in public places as part of a meaningful experiential context and continuum can enhance creative freedom as well as placement decisions because it generates broader questioning and information than has been yielded before by other orientations.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.