Public Art Challenge by Bloomberg Philanthropies to Offer Up to $1 M. Funding for Civic Projects

A scene from “Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light.”


Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable enterprise affiliated with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has launched a 2018 Public Art Challenge for proposals of temporary projects that address civic issues and demonstrate an ability to “generate public-private collaborations, celebrate creativity and urban identity, and strengthen local economies,” an announcement states. Mayors of cities with 30,000 residents or more are invited to apply for as much as $1 million in funding for temporary projects to be executed within two years.

“There’s a virtuous cycle that public art tends to trigger,” Kate D. Levin, who oversees the arts program for Bloomberg Philanthropies, told ARTnews. “It’s not always acknowledged, because people tend to focus on the art—which is appropriate—but part of the reason Michael Bloomberg is funding this initiative is because he wants to help catalyze a greater appreciation of the impact that art can have in cities and the ways in which projects, however different they may be, tend to spark beneficial cross-sector dialogue and work that wouldn’t happen in other ways.”

The first such Public Art Challenge awarded funds to four projects from proposals submitted by more than 230 cities in 2015. “Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light,” a light-art project in South Carolina, exemplified the goals of the initiative for the way it promoted work between the city’s police and fire departments alongside local government agencies and nonprofits, Levin said. “It’s an example of how an art project got a bunch of people working together toward a common goal that wouldn’t have been pulling in the same direction.”

Bloomberg Philanthropies says the first Public Art Challenge resulted in $13 million “catalyzed for local economies” as well as 820 full- and part-time jobs devoted to projects ultimately seen by 10 million viewers. “This isn’t something that rockets in from out of town,” Levin said of localized benefits for cities awarded funding. To that effect, a condition of the grants is that they cannot cover 100 percent of costs for projects. “Part of what this opportunity is aimed at doing is helping cities understand and development a donor base,” Levin added.

The application for the 2018 Public Art Challenge, which will cover “at least three” winners, can be found online here.

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