Public Art Labels
Making Unofficial Art Official
In this relatively simple activity, something is identified as an art piece, and a formal museum-type label is placed next to it. Rob Walker, author of “The Art of Noticing,” and Austin Kleon encourage others to label things that exist in public (or even in our homes) to make others pay more attention to them as well. The idea is that anything can be art, and by adding a label that identifies it as art, others are likelier to notice and appreciate it. This “art” can be random things like a crushed can placed in a hole in a wall, another object, a painting, a sketch or even a coloring page.
I have to admit that sometimes when I am looking at certain types of art, I wonder why it is considered “art”, and like many people, I incorrectly assume that creating some of these things must have been easy or that anyone could do it. I think this “Make it Art” game plays on the idea that anything can be art if we call it so. Do you agree?
As part of my current 50 Things list, I decided to create a few museum-style art labels and place them around my town on objects that could be art. (I know - this is a pretty weird thing, but hey, this is about trying something new and getting out of my comfort zone). I researched recommended fonts, sizes, and information to be included and tried to create a few museum-style labels. In this experiment, I simply printed them on cardstock, but if I want them to last, I will need to laminate them somehow, but that is something to think about later. The labels in the photos are shown in little plastic sleeves. The photos in this newsletter show three of my labels applied to “art.” I placed two of the three objects (i.e., art I created myself) around town and then labeled them. Item No. 3, the Star Wars dolls shown above, were found on a curb next to someone’s trash cans so I propped them up and gave them a label too.
You might be thinking that this “art” will quickly disappear and be taken by others because it may suddenly be seen as more valuable. That may be a separate project to monitor in the future. Honestly, I will be surprised if that happens in my neighborhood. During the first Covid lockdown, many families with young children created little fairy-village scenes at the bases of trees, under bushes on front lawns, and in random corners in parks. The fairy-villages are a mishmash of small doll furniture and tiny toys. Parents created these with the help of their children, and then when walking or riding bikes around the neighborhood, they would go on a type of scavenger hunt to try to find these tiny displays. Things that were once a pile of old forgotten toys quickly became “art” for the public to enjoy. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
If you are interested in creating your own museum-style labels, the Museums and Galleries of NSW provides some great information about exhibition labeling. Additionally, Nick Gray on Medium has an informative post about making home museum displays. If you want my template for making labels, just let me know, and I’ll send you a link.
Finally, you can find more information about Austin Kleon’s “Make it Art” game in this great post from the Substack newsletter by Rob Walker, The Art of Noticing.
Are you ready to give it a try? If you don’t see anything worthy of being declared “art” in your environment, perhaps you can create and share something small with the world. More on this idea in next week’s newsletter!
PS - If you label some unexpected art in your environment, I’d love to see it. Simply reply to this email and include a photo, and I’ll share it with other subscribers next week.
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50 Things is copyrighted by Linda Tapp. Commissions may be earned from the links above.
Thanks for reading! See you next week! - Linda