Mississippi city recognized as a global leader in public art

By LICI BEVERIDGE, Hattiesburg American

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) _ Paris. New York. Berlin. Hattiesburg. These four cities have something in common. Each is on a list of 11 cities in the world recognized as leaders in public art.

Hattiesburg was included in the list in Travel and Leisure magazine thanks to the many murals and sculptures found throughout the city.

“Home to more than 40 public art installations including murals, sculpture and brightly painted utility boxes, Hattiesburg is committed to making art available to all its citizens,” the article says.

The list of 11 cities also includes Miami, Vancouver and Cape Town, South Africa. Only four U.S. cities were named to the list. The fourth city is Philadelphia.

The cities were chosen from “a study of art in cities around the world by money.co.uk based its results in part on a count of Instagram posts and street art searches,” the magazine said.

“To be one of four cities in North America included on a list that speaks about public art in places like New York City, Paris and Berlin is just a single example of the talent and creativity that exists right here in Hattiesburg,” Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker said in a statement. “Public art is a rising star in our community, thanks to many who have gone before us and the Hattiesburg Alliance for Public Art’s steady leadership.”

Hattiesburg Alliance for Public Art has ramped up efforts to install murals and other works of art, including hiring local artists to decorate utility boxes. A number of sculptures purchased during annual public art exhibits are scattered throughout the downtown area.

The city also offers more than 30 artist-generated Little Free Libraries; the Pocket Museum, a miniature museum located in a window in a downtown Hattiesburg alley; The Jook, which gives a nod to the city’s history as the birthplace of rock and roll; pop-up murals for the holidays and more through its tourism and local arts organizations.

Most of the public art locations can be toured using the Arts Trail map, but other installations have been added since the map was released in April.

“To be included on an international list of top art destinations speaks volumes about Hattiesburg’s creative spirit,” Kristen Brock, director of programs and promotions for VisitHATTIESBURG and Hattiesburg Alliance for Public Art, said in a statement. “HAPA is incredibly lucky to work with national and local artists to bring innovative, creative and diverse imagery to the city’s public spaces.”

The city has plans to continue its offerings in public art with a goal of at least 100 murals citywide.

“We look forward to continuing our trajectory as a premier arts destination and reaching our goal of being the `City of 100 Murals,”’ Barker said.

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