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Bloomberg announces second round of grants initiative for arts-driven street redesigns

Programme is designed not just to create vibrant new public spaces but also to build city capacity for working with artists and community groups on projects involving transportation infrastructure.

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One of the 2020 Asphalt Art Initiative projects from Saginaw, Michigan
One of the 2020 Asphalt Art Initiative projects from Saginaw, Michigan

As many as 20 US cities could receive up to $25,000 each for projects that use art and design to improve street safety, revitalise public spaces, and engage local communities under an initiative launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

 

The Asphalt Art Initiative, announced at the Bloomberg CityLab 2021 global cities summit, is inspired by work done to improve pedestrian safety and revitalise New York City streets during Michael Bloomberg’s tenure as mayor from 2002-2013.

 

Build city capacity

 

The grant programme is designed not just to create vibrant new public spaces but also to build city capacity for working with artists and community groups on projects involving transportation infrastructure.

 

According to Bloomberg Philanthropies, the initiative responds to the growing number of cities around the world embracing art as an effective and relatively low-cost strategy to activate their streets, with interventions on plazas and sidewalks, crosswalks and intersections and other transportation infrastructure.

 

“Asphalt Art Projects can help cities rebuild from the pandemic by reinvigorating streets and making them safer, while also lifting spirits,” said Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies.

 

“As we’ve seen through our work in cities around the world, vibrant public artwork and smarter street design can inspire residents, build relationships between artists and the community, and help cities recover stronger than before.”

 

This next phase comes as the first round of 16 grantees, announced in June 2020, continue to roll out their projects. The cities of Kansas City, Missouri, Saginaw, Michigan and Norfolk, Virginia installed projects in the fall of 2020.

“Vibrant public artwork and smarter street design can inspire residents, build relationships between artists and the community, and help cities recover stronger than before”

They have transformed a combined 20,000 square feet of streetscape with artwork and engaged nearly 1,000 residents and 37 artists in the design and installation process. Kansas City’s redesign of a problematic intersection also reduced overall vehicle speeds by 45 per cent, shortened pedestrian crossing distances by 50 per cent, and increased the number of pedestrians who feel safe crossing the intersection by 40 per cent.

 

The remaining cities, which will install their projects throughout 2021, include: Chattanooga, Tennessee; Durham, North Carolina; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Columbus, Indiana; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Cincinnati, Ohio; Reno, Nevada; Trenton, New Jersey; Troy, New York; Dubuque, Iowa; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Richmond, Virginia; and Calexico, California.

 

“Adapting our cities post-pandemic isn’t just a question of engineering or epidemiology, but of imagination. By bringing light, colour and creativity to blacktop, asphalt art projects can bring people together after so much time apart and breathe new life into our cities and our streets,” added Janette Sadik-Khan, principal for transportation at Bloomberg Associates and former commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation.

 

“From open streets to outdoor dining, this past year has made the importance of the public realm clearer than ever, and this programme will help cities coast to coast make their streetscapes as vibrant as the communities that come together to create them.”

 

Winning cities

 

In this second round, all US cities are invited to apply from 2 March to 30 April 2021. Winning cities will be announced in fall 2021 and all selected projects will be installed by the fall of 2022. The application and city selection guidelines are available at AsphaltArt.bloomberg.org

 

Asphalt Art Guide, with case studies and best practices from cities around the world. The guide, which has been accessed more than 4,500 times by governments and other practitioners in all 50 US states and 83 countries, is free for download at AsphaltArt.bloomberg.org.

 

It was produced by the Bloomberg Associates’ transportation and cultural assets management teams in collaboration with urban planning and architecture firm Street Plans Collaborative and public art consultant Renee Piechocki.

 

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