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  1. Robert Murray, Cumbria, 1966-67
    corten steel 425 x 900 x 450 cm

Fifth Annual Dean of Arts Prize for the Best Essay in Visual Literacy

What is Public Art?

PAST - Friday, April 11, 2014 at 4 pm

$1,000 prize for the winning essay

Every full-time undergraduate student at UBC is invited to participate in an essay contest that considers the question, What is Public Art?

Public art is notoriously difficult to define; it encompasses a vast array of practices and forms. Permanent sculpture, temporary artwork, socially-engaged performance, monuments and memorials, community-based projects, land art, and street furniture, have all been classified as Public Art. Despite the fact that the history of public art largely coincides with the history of art (here we might think of Paleolithic cave paintings or Medieval frescoes) the designation “Public Art” was coined in the late 1960s. Art historian Rosalind Krauss recognized the need for a new terminology for sculpture that had moved off the pedestal, out of the gallery and into the environment. This relaxing of art’s limits has generated new categories of art that operate within an ever expanding and interdisciplinary field.

You are invited in this essay to consider the practices of Public Art and how they speak directly to our experience at UBC. What is the nature and possibility of communal engagement, identity formation, social functions of art, and the importance of site-specificity? What significance is generated by UBC’s Outdoor Art Collection for a particular audience(s), and based on what type of experiences? If the meaning of a public artwork shifts in relation to space and social context, how might we imagine the future of Public Art at UBC and its role in creating a sense of place and community on our campus?

The Guidelines:

Essays must be no longer than 1,000 words in length and submitted to the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery no later than 4:00 pm on Friday, April 11, 2014. Submissions must be made with a separate page indicating: 1) full name, 2) student number, 3) email, 4) telephone.

Contestants must be full-time students registered in an undergraduate program at the University of British Columbia.

Visit the Belkin Art Gallery reception desk to read more about the Outdoor Art and artists on campus, or download the self-guided walking tour.

>> Download guide [PDF 1.8 MB]

>> UBC Outdoor Art Tour on Google Maps

For more information contact: Shelly Rosenblum, tel: 604-827-3287,

For further information please contact: Jana Tyner at,
tel: (604) 822-1389, or fax: (604) 822-6689