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The Pedagogy of Talking Back: Challenging the Modernist Ideologies of the Murphy Sculpture Garden Through Contemporary Definitions and Practices of Public Art


Though widely celebrated as a masterpiece, the Murphy Sculpture Garden raises important questions about the role of art in public space today. How do we define public art? When is it art, and what exactly makes it public? Growing scholarship in urban studies, fine art, historical preservation, and social sciences suggests that the paradigms for public art are shifting. While societal values and environmental circumstances change with time, many existing public artworks endure, unchanged and unchallenged, as if frozen in perpetuity. The Murphy Sculpture Garden cannot be experienced or understood as it was conceived almost 60 years ago. Using the sculpture garden as a case study, this article examines emerging theories, competing definitions, key paradigms, and ongoing tensions in the discourse of public art.

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