Public Art / Public Space is the first monograph about the work of Barbara Grygutis, a pioneering public artist whose large-scale sculptural environments shape the spaces they inhabit. Grygutis employs the materials that complement each context, creating her works out of glass and light—or metal mesh through which light shines—in addition to prosaic essentials like steel and concrete. The materials are illuminated, both literally and figurative, by her deeply contemplated design choices.
In Public Art / Public Space, Grygutis’ installations are depicted in vivid color—some of the drawings and photography have never been published before—and explored in essays by her collaborators through the years, whose institutions range from local governments to state universities. Jack Becker, founder of the Minnesota nonprofit Forecast Public Art and publisher of the magazine Public Art Review, writes in his contribution to the book:
I’ve learned that public art isn’t an art form; it’s a field of inquiry, like medicine or science. Artists of all stripes are experimenting and testing theories of cause and effect in the public sphere. They treat the city like it’s their laboratory, a venue for all kinds of creative experimentation. As a daily practice, public art offers unlimited opportunities for collaboration, for ideas that shape our built environment and efforts that influence change—locally and globally.
Public art is inclusive in a way that no museum can be, and Barbara Grygutis embraces this dimension of her field. By virtue of its exposed location, public art invites participation. The welcome extended by Grygutis’ work can be physical, as with the guardrails along Seattle’s “South Park Bridge” or seating elements in works like “Lifelines” in center city Philadelphia, or “Bronx River View,” which was recognized as a “Neighborhood Catalyst” in 2011 by the Municipal Art Society of New York. Or Grygutis’ work can be spiritual. The monument memorializing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Columbia, Missouri prompts visitors to bring their connection with the past into their present life experience. “Wave” at the Palm Beach County Convention Center uses ever-changing light patterns, as does, “Dawn’s Silver Lining” in Salina, Kansas as it evokes the lacy shapes of trees in the wind. Professor Linda Bolton, University of Iowa, writes:
To journey into the public sculptural environments of Barbara Grygutis is to awaken to an experience of joy, wonder, and beauty. These are living spaces designed to nurture the land