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Follow the Data Podcast: Making Streets Safer with Asphalt Art


City streets have always been our most important public spaces. A well-designed street that works for everyone, whether you’re walking or biking, taking a bus or driving a car, becomes not just a way to get from A to B, but a true destination itself. A growing number of cities around the world are embracing public art as an effective and relatively low-cost strategy to activate their streets and make them safer and more inviting to resident and visitors. Bringing light and color to dull asphalt and concrete can reshape the way we experience daily life in our cities – and that holds especially true during the pandemic with people traveling less and spending more time exercising, dining and socializing outside.

In 2019, Bloomberg Philanthropies launched the Asphalt Art Initiative to help cities use art to improve street safety, revitalize public spaces, and engage their local communities. Our pro bono consulting arm, Bloomberg Associates, produced the Asphalt Art Guide, which highlights successful art activations in cities around the world and provides advice and tips for cities interested in making their own asphalt art projects. We also funded pilot projects in 16 small and mid-sized cities around the country to demonstrate the impact of these low-cost interventions and encourage cities to develop long-lasting processes for implementing effective asphalt art.


Painting butterflies along Court Street during the Great Mural Project
Painting butterflies along Court Street during the Great Mural Project Asphalt Mural Paint-A-Thon on Sept. 26, 2020 in Saginaw, Michigan.


On this episode, David Andersson of the Bloomberg Associates Arts team and Nick Mosquera of the Bloomberg Associates Transportation team sit down with representatives from three of our funded projects that were installed this fall: Jamie Forbes, a community leader and former city council member from Saginaw, Michigan, DuRon Netsell, a streetscape designer who managed an installation in Kansas City, Missouri, and Mensah Bey, an artist who designed a mural that was implemented in Norfolk, Virginia. They discuss how asphalt art encourages residents to take ownership of their streets, how cities can redesign roads to make them safer, and how to engage community members in cities that may be installing public art projects.

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More episodes from our coronavirus series include: