A Look At Bloomberg's Latest Move on Public Art

Monday, February 26, 2018

A Look At Bloomberg's Latest Move on Public Art

The unofficial opening salvo in the public art boom came in 2014 with the launch of Bloomberg Philanthropies' Public Art Challenge.

The initiative represented a big commitment to a historically underappreciated medium from a billionaire philanthropist concerned with urban issues, economic development and performance measurement. And in a philanthropic climate in which the Wallace Foundation allocated $52 million to study "engagement," public art promised to spark "beneficial cross-sector dialogue and work that wouldn’t happen in other ways," according to Bloomberg's Kate D. Levin.

A year later, Bloomberg announced its inaugural winners, and since then, other funders, including the William Penn Foundation, the Barr Foundation and the Kenneth Rainin Foundation have made their own investments in public art. Even Mike Bloomberg's fellow mayors joined the fray. Chicago's Rahm Emanuel dubbed 2017 the "Year of Public Art."

Now comes word that Bloomberg Philanthropies has launched its 2018 Public Art Challenge.

The news provides a good opportunity not only to revisit one of public art's most influential proponents, but also to take a closer look at where the medium may be heading.

Let's start with Bloomberg's 2018 Public Art Challenge.

Just like its inaugural round, mayors in cities with populations of 30,000 or more—not arts organizations, it should be noted—are invited to apply for up to $1 million in funding for temporary public art projects that address important civic issues. Proposed projects will be evaluated on their ability to "generate public-private collaborations, celebrate creativity and urban identity, and strengthen local economies."

The Public Art Challenge is a part of Mike Bloomberg’s American Cities Initiative, an effort to help U.S. cities generate innovation and advance policy...

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