$3 Million for Citywide Public Art Challenges

Image: Flickr

The Public Art Challenge by Bloomberg Philanthropies is for U.S. cities with 30,000 residents or more. At least three will each receive $1 million to use art to address imperative civic issues.

Bloomberg Philanthropies has launched the 2018 Public Art Challenge, part of Mike Bloomberg’s American Cities Initiative. U.S. cities with 30,000 residents or more are invited to apply for up to $1 million in funding for temporary public art projects that address civic issues, including neighborhood safety, environmental sustainability and promoting city identity.

The goal of the Public Art Challenge is to help U.S. cities generate innovation and advance policy by encouraging mayors to partner with artists, elevating the value of including the creative sector when developing solutions to significant urban issues.

The first challenge in 2014 received submissions from more than 230 cities. In 2015, Gary, Indiana, Spartanburg, South Carolina, Los Angeles, California, and the New York Capital Region (the cities of Albany, Schenectady and Troy) received $1 million each to execute projects over a two-year period. A study of the contests impact indicated the effort generated:

  • $13 million for local economies
  • 10 million views
  • 245 partners that helped implement projects
  • 820 people employed through full-time and part-time positions
  • 1,300 volunteers contributing their time and talent to the projects
  • 490 programs and activities like tours, workshops and lectures
Illuminating the Opportunity of Vacant Properties

Through a collaborative effort, the cities of Albany, Schenectady and Troy, New York, illuminated vacant buildings across the region to mimic human breath and elevate the issues of vacancy and urban revitalization. Artist Adam Frelin, architect Barbara Nelson, the mayors of the three cities, local land banks and more than 75 community and private sector partners came together to bring the “Breathing Lights” installation to life. This project included a series of related public programming for residents, prospective buyers and investors and policymakers.

Breathing Lights helped stimulate discussion and transform public perception by literally shining a light on vacant and abandoned buildings in distressed neighborhoods,” said Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan. “The Public Art Challenge opened the door to unprecedented collaboration and cooperation among our three cities, and allowed us to look at blight and revitalization through an entirely different lens.”

Public Art for Stronger Police-Community Relations

To improve police-community relations and create safer public spaces, the city of Spartanburg, South Carolina, worked with artist Erwin Redl on “Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light.” Collaborating with the city’s police and fire departments, along with the neighborhood associations, Redl designed and developed engaging art installations across 10 neighborhoods in the city.

The Public Art Challenge provided an opportunity to build, repair and strengthen police-community relations in the city,” said Spartanburg Chief of Police Alonzo Thompson. “To bring the expansive installation in 10 different neighborhoods to life, residents from vastly different parts of the city came together on a common ground. All were at the table with equal voices.”

Submissions for dynamic works of art across all disciplines will be considered. Proposed projects will be evaluated on their ability to:

  • Generate public-private partnerships (P3s)
  • Celebrate creativity and urban identity
  • Strengthen local economies

According to the challenge website, at least three winners will be chosen to execute their projects over a maximum of 24 months. Grants will cover development, execution and marketing, but will not fund 100 percent of project costs.

Learn more and apply at PublicArtChallenge.Bloomberg.org.

About the author

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox is Editor of EfficientGov.com and Senior Editor at Praetorian Digital. She is based in Massachusetts.