The storytelling of public spaces: Rhetoric, community, and social change

Lindsay K Hamilton, University of Texas at El Paso


This dissertation examines how public art, broadly defined, contributes to the dialogue of public places. It assumes that public places are filled with rhetoric—from commercial, governmental, private, and other sources. This rhetoric is mainly concerned with the public as audience, receivers of information who are then expected to act in certain ways—following the directions of street signs or entering shops when a window display attracts their attention, for example. Public art, particularly community-based art, can be used to make public places more democratic, providing platforms for people and communities to talk back and reassert their identities. The case study, a practicum, grew out of a class assignment called Computers and Writing, an elective that was part of the coursework for the degree in Rhetoric and Composition. The assignment required students to create a digital mural and install it on a photograph of a real location. As a consequence of this project a community arts project was born, one that is currently underway to bring murals by a local artist to Fort Bliss, Texas. It is this project that informs much of the focus of this dissertation and the implications for pedagogy in the Rhetoric and Writing Studies classroom—the importance of listening and empathy, the need for professional business writing and software skills, and the imperative to develop student-leaders who can actively engage in their communities. Because the case study involves a murals project and takes place on a military installation where memorials and museums dominate the public art landscape, special attention is given to these genres.

Subject Area

Rhetoric|Urban planning

Recommended Citation

Hamilton, Lindsay K, "The storytelling of public spaces: Rhetoric, community, and social change" (2016). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10118172.