Feb. 9, 2017 04:00 PM

An august panel of area artists will convene tonight at Acadiana Center for the Arts for a discussion of public art and its impact on Lafayette’s built environment. The discussion is in part spurred by the release of Art of the People, a book surveying prominent works public art in Lafayette.

In Art of the People, author Jeremy Broussard examines the city-scaping created by iconic pieces around Lafayyette, some so commonplace as to be taken for granted. Hub citizens blithely scoot past the murals of Robert Dafford that drape a pop-art landscape in Downtown and by the painted benches, pelicans and utility boxes that dot Lafayette’s sprawling and congested thoroughfares.

“Public art is the difference between loitering and visiting,” says Broussard. “You take any plaza or gathering space and you put a sculpture or painting on the wall and it changes how you feel. It’s universal. It’s a function of being human. Art is not essential for survival, but it makes life worth surviving.”

Broussard’s book, which is officially released for sale today, was funded through Art Spark, a joint grant produced by Lafayette Economic Development Authority, AcA, and Acadiana Economic Development.

The proliferation of public art, through a process the planning world calls creative place making, has been shown to improve economic vitality. People want to live in attractive places. And businesses have an easier time courting employment in bustling, active environments.

Programs like Art Spark demonstrate a new savvy among business advocates that charismatic public spaces can be beneficial to the market.

Or as LEDA CEO Gregg Gothreaux put it in 1997, and again in 2015, "Art is economic development!"

Robert Dafford and multi-faceted muralist and print maker Susan David will appear, along with portrait artist Lucas Menard, who produced the Dr. Seuss chalk installation on the Lafayette Children’s Museum.

Opportunity Machine honcho Zach Barker will moderate the panel.

The event begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Art House at AcA. It’s free and open to the public.