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June 29, 2023

17 finalists cities for $1m public art challenge grant announced

Up to ten winners will secure grants of up to $1m each to fund public art projects tackling urgent civic issues, with a focus on revitalisation, equity, and climate change.

By City Monitor Staff

Bloomberg Philanthropies has revealed the 17 US cities that are finalists for grants of up to $1m each as part of the Public Art Challenge. Launched in 2014, the programme aims to support temporary public art projects that address urgent civic issues.

Common Ground Installation 2 - a previous Bloomberg public art challenge winner
Previous grant winner: designed to be an energetic invitation to the public to participate in the communal activity of dining in a space usually reserved for vehicular traffic, the mural in Jackson transformed one of the most bustling streets in Fondren. ‘Common Ground’ evoked the restorative power of relationships that sprout as a result of southern food culture. (Photo by Drew Dempsey)

Out of more than 150 applications from 40 states, the finalists were chosen based on their proposals to tackle pressing matters such as urban revitalisation, environmental sustainability and equity. The projects encompass a diverse range of creative expressions, including sculptures, murals, performances, digital installations, light exhibits and festivals.

In autumn 2023, Bloomberg Philanthropies will select up to ten winners from these 17 finalists to execute their projects within the next two years. The initiative seeks to bring communities together, boost local economies, and inspire dynamic urban environments through the power of public art.

Michael Bloomberg, the founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, as well as the 108th mayor of New York City, stated, “Public art provides a creative way to bring communities together, strengthen local economies, and make cities more inspiring and dynamic. This year’s proposals show that public art, and the partnerships they forge between artists and local governments, is stronger than ever.”

The selection process began in November 2022 when Bloomberg Philanthropies invited mayors of US cities with populations of 30,000 or more to submit their proposals. The 17 cities listed below were chosen to advance to the next round of the Public Art Challenge by submitting more detailed plans for their respective projects:

  1. Alameda, CA – Climate: The “Rising Tides” project aims to increase awareness of climate change and sustainable economic development by commissioning visual and performing artworks on a former Naval Air Station vulnerable to rising sea levels.
  2. Atlanta, GA – Public Health: “Thriving Together” intends to address healthcare inequities through large-scale installations, a mobile art gallery, and a festival across 50 locations, including hospitals, universities, and theatres. The initiative is produced in partnership with the CDC Foundation, Out of Hand Theater, and the National Black Arts Festival.
  3. Austin, TX – Climate: “The Way of Water” proposes utilizing multiple sites along the Colorado River in downtown Austin for performances and installations that raise awareness about climate responses, specifically preparing for floods.
  4. Baltimore, MD – Revitalization: “Inviting Light” aims to revitalize Station North, the City’s Arts District, through light installations and programming at five sites, led by Derrick Adams.
  5. Columbus, OH – Equity: “Greenlined” seeks to spark discourse about land use policy in areas historically devalued by redlining, examining how discriminatory land development practices have contributed to the current housing shortage.
  6. Honolulu, HI – Equity: “Wahi Pana” (Storied Places) plans to install over a dozen artworks in key tourist destinations to create meaningful engagement with the Indigenous history of O’ahu.
  7. Houston, TX – Homelessness: “HueMan: Shelter” endeavours to disrupt perceptions of homelessness by employing artists and unsheltered individuals to collaborate on visual storytelling. The project includes the activation of nine sites along a main street corridor in Midtown, Houston.
  8. Miami, FL – Climate: “1,000,000 Butterflies” proposes a digital mural on The Underline, an urban trail beneath Miami’s Metrorail, to prompt action on climate change. Additionally, the initiative aims to develop gardens throughout the city to increase green spaces.
  9. Minneapolis, MN – Equity: “Minneapolis Reckoning” plans to install artworks in vacant areas across seven cultural districts to address institutionalized racism towards the Black community, aligning with the city’s ongoing efforts to address the murder of George Floyd.
  10. Nashville, TN – Equity: “Re-Weaving Juvenile Justice” seeks to generate discussions on restorative justice for Nashville’s youth through community-built installations and poetry.
  11. New Orleans, LA – Public Safety: “Feathers of Hope” proposes a series of festivals featuring light sculptures, digital art, and illuminated suits inspired by the Mardi Gras masking culture to promote public safety.
  12. Orlando, FL – Food Insecurity: “Art Pollination” aims to raise awareness about food insecurity and the lack of access to healthy food by engaging artists and farmers to develop art installations in urban landscapes.
  13. Philadelphia, PA – Gun Violence: “Healing Verse Germantown” is a community-driven project that addresses gun violence through public art installations based on poems written in community workshops.
  14. Phoenix, AZ – Climate: “¡Sombra!” (Shade) plans to commission 12 artists to create shading and cooling installations in response to global warming. The projects will be located in various parks and neighbourhoods identified through heat mapping.
  15. Raleigh, NC – Equity: “Our Art, Our Voice, Our Future” comprises three installations and community-led symposiums aimed at addressing the loss of Black cultural identity and history in Southeast Raleigh.
  16. Salt Lake City, UT – Climate: “Wake the Great Salt Lake” seeks to inspire action on climate change through visual art installations in each of the city’s seven council districts, focusing on the persistent drought crisis affecting the Great Salt Lake.
  17. San Diego, CA – Equity: “To Draw a Circle on the Earth” will create a ceremonial ground functioning as a platform for Indigenous arts and cultural programming by the Kumeyaay people and other Indigenous communities.

Kate Levin, who leads the Arts Program at Bloomberg Philanthropies, commented, “This year’s Public Art Challenge applications showcased a commitment to embracing the creative sector as a means to develop solutions to a range of complex urban issues. These finalists all proposed especially compelling creative ideas, along with robust community partnerships, and we are looking forward to learning more about their plans.”

The support provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies to the winning cities will be part of a committed consortium of funders. While the grants will cover project-related expenditures, including development, execution, and marketing, they will not fund the total project costs.

[Read more: Seven cities in North and South America recognised for exceptional use of data]

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