Who determines successful public art?

Article – Art Efforts Brighten Cities’ Economic Pictures : http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2010-09-28-downtownarts28_ST_N.htm

This article regards a specific contest and general attempts to reinvigorate neighborhoods and areas of town as well as revitalize (local) economies through art. At the bottom of the article there’s a concern addressed about letting a public vote determine the award for the contest. Someone said something like, “if you let children vote on a culinary contest, they’ll vote for ice cream and candy.” Of course they will, but if the contest is oriented around what children think tastes better then contest will succeed. The association of an artistically uninformed audience to children is problematic to begin with, but if the contest is essentially for public art works then it doesn’t necessarily seem inappropriate to have the public be the determining factor in decision making.

Is it a good thing to have critics dictate what the public should appreciate? It seems like the best situation would be to have a hybrid, where certain pieces are selected by the public alone and others by critics, or (less likely to succeed) the selection of pieces where the most overlap is had among the public and critics together.

I imagine that it would be a negative driver to allow either group total control over the decision of which art is good and which is not, in terms of this contest but more importantly in terms of the general acceptance of art works. To allow critics, alone, the decisive power would create an ivory tower sort of dilemma, while granting the public that power would primarily promote aesthetic decorative appeal in art (which might eventually degrade art to the point of kitsch alone).

I don’t mean to sound elitist or its polar opposite. Critics are human and the public isn’t composed of wallowing pigs. Like Kuhn noted about scientific camps and criteria being subjective “all the way down,” so, too, are art camps. The public has members on a continuum of education, understanding, and interest in art, and critics are on a continuum of culture to ‘pure’ theory. Neither are best for the success and evolution of Art.