Public art has a new display on Main Street

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The arts community is two for two in recent weeks.

After installing five of the eight pieces of art that will eventually adorn the public alley off Main Street in front of the courthouse just a couple weeks ago, the Person County Arts Council was at it again Sunday.

A small band of volunteers dodged traffic before getting the street closed off to install a mural on the street in front of the historica Kirby theater.

Amazingly, there are naysayers who think it is a waste of government money.

But public art serves three really important purposes. The first, which is not so much our focus here, is the opportunity that public art gives to artists to have their work seen and an outlet for them to express themselves creatively.

The art on the street mimics artwork that was original to the Kirby Theater when it was first constructed. Now that it has been recreated outside, more people will see it.

The other, more important, purposes, I would argue, are that public art creates a warm, welcoming atmosphere and it displays a sense of pride in our community.

Business people want and need a warm, welcoming atmosphere if they hope to continue to have people walk through their doors day in and day out.

It wasn’t that long ago that downtown Raleigh, for instance, wasn’t a place you wanted to go. You really only went there if you needed to go. Stable, staple businesses in that downtown fled for the shopping malls, which were then on the edge of the city.

But Raleigh leaders saw something worth saving in their downtown and through a variety of efforts, including the installation of a lot of public art, downtown Raleigh is thriving once more. It’s a go-to place for people during the day, at night and on the weekends.

That’s what we want in Uptown Roxboro. When we make the area welcoming, more people will come.

Public art also creates a sense of pride and ownership among the entire community. Much of Roxboro’s public art remembers the past, and the heritage of Person County is worth celebrating. If we can do that through the tempered medium of public art, then we preserve the past at the same time we shore up our future.

Interestingly, I’ve heard some people complain that the display is a waste of taxpayer funds. To those folks, I would simply say that any time the government invests in the infrastructure of the community, it’s not a waste of anyone’s money. We expect government to do the things that the general public can’t or won’t do for itself.

Chances are, public art displays, which can costs thousands of dollars to produce, won’t be created by people out of the goodness of their heart. There aren’t that many filthy rich people living in Person County. Chances are, too, that the people who complain about the way government is using this money are perhaps the least likely people to come forward and do something for the good of the community for purely altrustic purposes.

When government, through funding it provides to groups like the Person County Arts Council and the Person County Tourism Development Authority, invests in the core of our community, it’s money well spent.

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