Know Ohio: Ohio's Public Art

We all know art galleries and museums are places we can go to experience eye- catching masterpieces – but, in most cases, these places are a bit (SHHHH!) quiet. You wouldn’t want to run around in them, and there’s definitely no touching the art! Trust me, don’t even try it!

Luckily, in some cases, the art is brought outside the confines of a museum. There are so many examples of public art scattered all around the Buckeye State – ranging from whacky to wonderful to....let’s say...thought provoking. Yeah. Let's go with that.

In Dublin, the “Field of Corn” installation consists of 109 giant concrete ears of corn, sprouting out of a grassy field. Built in 1994, the art honors the inventor of several hybrid corn species, Sam Frantz, who once farmed the field. It’s also meant to remind visitors of Dublin’s agricultural heritage. But it actually reminds a lot of people of something else: it’s been dubbed “Corn-henge,” because of its similarity to the mysterious prehistoric monument, Stonehenge. And lots of folks find these people-sized corn cobs equally as puzzling!

Another over-sized object that doubles as public art calls Cleveland home. Known as the “world’s largest rubber stamp,” or, simply, the “FREE stamp,” this nearly 30-foot-tall sculpture was designed by Claes Oldenburg in 1985. The word “FREE” was meant to reference the nearby Soldiers and Sailors Monument – which honors the Civil War veterans who fought to free Southern slaves. The sculpture was supposed to sit outside Standard Oil headquarters – and was designed to stand upright, with the word FREE facing the sky, but that’s not how things worked out. Instead Standard Oil donated it to the city, who put the art blocks away in Willard Park and laid it on its side. Claes Oldenburg is said to have told a reporter that “it looked as if a giant hand had picked up the sculpture from its intended location and angrily hurled it several blocks, where it ended up on its side.”

Down in Cincinnati, they’re certainly not immune to the oversized objects craze. I’m looking at you, Giant Red Squirt Gun...but they also turn bare city walls into public masterpieces with some vibrant murals that pay tribute to the vibrant Queen City. An organization called ArtWorks Cincinnati has created over 100 public murals in and around Cincinnati – like this one, called “Fresh Harvest” which is emblazoned on the side of the corporate headquarters of the Kroger supermarket chain. Be careful not to walk under it – it looks like those huge vegetables are dropping onto the street!

Whether you happen to love it or hate it, public art is available to everyone – and that’s what makes it so great. It allows you experience something unique and interesting in your everyday life. Now, we can’t possibly cover ALL the public art in Ohio – because there’s just too much! So, take a walk and see what you can find – and maybe think about some art of your own. 

Instructional Links

Website: Public Art Archive

Interactive Map: Culture Now, Museum Without Walls

Website Article: Americans for the Arts, Public Art 101

Reference Book Article: Occupational Outlook Handbook, Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers

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