Open Public Art


Why Open Public Art

New American Public Art believes that public art should be truly public from conception to completion. Public art should not only function as an aesthetic or cultural landmark, but as a monument of public knowledge and a resource for the creative economy. In our ideal world, public art is open public art.

What is Open Public Art

Not all public art is open public art. Most public art, like the Cloud Gate in Chicago, IL, is accessible publicly but still subject to copyright restrictions that prevent the art from being truly open. We prefer to borrow from the philosophies of the open source movement and create art that is both public and non-proprietary. In other words, open public art.

Open Public Art shares more than its physical presence by making available the design schematics, manufacture, software code, collaborators, even budget for the art available freely and openly to the public. Open Public Art empowers the public to not only access the physical work but to recreate the work itself, if they choose. Open Public Art aspires to combine the thoroughness of movie credit attribution, the specificity of scientific citation standards, the accessibility of creative commons and open source, and open hardware public records as the structure for how information is shared publicly. 

Below, we plot various works of art according to two dimensions: their physical accessibility and their legal openness. This matrix will help contextualize what we envision open public art to be in relation to other forms of art.

Open Art Matrix

Legal Openness: Art lives on a legal spectrum from full copyright protection to the public domain. Rights granted by copyright include the rights of reproduction, distribution, display, and performance. Copyright holders can also choose to license certain protected rights, or waive them entirely. Conversely, works in the public domain can be freely used by anyone, for any purpose, without permissions. The owners of the space in which a work is displayed may choose to regulate certain reproductions or displays of the work, however.

Physical Accessibility: Art can be displayed on a spectrum of accessibility, from completely private (hanging in the living room of a New York City apartment), to controlled public access (displayed in a museum or gallery), to completely public (installed in a public space with free access).

Open Public Art represents art that achieves maximum physical and legal openness (while still under copyright). Open public art is art displayed in a public space and subject to an open copyright license that allows others to freely reproduce the work for any purpose, as long as those creators release their work using the same license and include attribution to the original creators.

Open Public Art Trademark

Download and start using the Open Public Art mark from our github page here:

The concepts and iconography of Open Public Art are a collaboration between
NYU Law's Technology Law and Policy Clinic [Yilu Zhang, Kristen M Iglesias]
and New American Public Art