Press & Media

Bloomberg Philanthropies Selects Four U.S. Cities to Receive Up to $1 Million Each in Funding for Public Art Projects

Selected Public Art Projects Address Some of the Nation’s Most Pressing Civic Issues, Including Vacant and Abandoned Properties, Water Conservation, Neighborhood Safety, and Urban Development

Bloomberg Philanthropies today announced four cities selected to receive up to $1 million each as part of the Public Art Challenge, a new program aimed at supporting temporary public art projects that engage communities, enhance creativity, and enrich the vibrancy of cities. The cities selected are: Albany, Schenectady, and Troy, NY, which proposed a collaborative project; as well as Gary, IN, Los Angeles, CA and Spartanburg, SC.

Bloomberg Philanthropies invited mayors of U.S. cities with 30,000 residents or more to submit proposals for innovative temporary public art projects that address a civic issue, and demonstrate close collaboration between artists or arts organizations and city government.

“Great public art strengthens cities by making them more exciting and attractive places to live, work, and visit. Public art can also help us to see urban challenges in a new light – and imagine new solutions,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies, Mayor of New York City from 2002-2013 and entrepreneur. “All of the winning projects are excellent examples of this, and each can have a lasting impact.”

Proposals covered a range of issues, such as the revitalization of decayed downtown areas, underutilized waterfronts, and vacant neighborhoods. They also addressed social themes including neighborhood safety, environmental sustainability, and promoting city identity. More than 230 cities submitted proposals for consideration in the Public Art Challenge, representing 68 million residents across the United States.

The following four grantees will develop and execute their projects over the next 24 months. The Public Art Challenge grant will cover development, execution and project-related expenditures but will not fund 100 percent of project costs. The grant is intended to provide catalytic funds as part of a strong, committed consortium of supporters, both public and private.

1. Albany, Schenectady and Troy, NY – Breathing Lights
Illuminating the Need for Community Revitalization
Through a collaborative effort, the cities of Albany, Schenectady and Troy plan to illuminate up to 300 vacant homes over several months. Working with lead artist Adam Frelin, lead architect Barbara Nelson, and more than 25 community and private sector partners, including the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, this multi-site installation aims to regenerate interest in once-vibrant neighborhoods that currently have high vacancy rates. This consortium will culminate the project with a regional summit on vacant homes and abandoned buildings to engage local residents, prospective buyers and investors, and policymakers.

2. Gary, IN – ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen
Connecting Food and Art to Develop a Cultural District
The City of Gary will transform an underutilized downtown building into a cultural hub that showcases visual and culinary arts.  ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen is a partnership with artist Theaster Gates and the City to create a civic center that features three commissioned works of visual art, offers culinary training, and provides cultural programming that uses food as a medium for community engagement.  The City will use this public space as a catalyst to develop a cultural district and promote urban revitalization. Additional support for this project is being provided by The Knight Foundation.

3. Los Angeles, CA – CURRENT: LA River
Call to Action on Water Conservation through Art
The City of Los Angeles will commission up to 15 multidisciplinary artworks and public programs that focus on the city’s environmental concerns and engage residents for its inaugural Public Art Biennial. These inaugural installations will include locations alongside the Los Angeles River as well as other sites throughout Los Angeles.

4. Spartanburg, SC – Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light
Addressing Crime through Creative Partnerships
The City of Spartanburg is planning temporary art installations on city-owned public spaces in five targeted neighborhoods building on National Night Out, an annual event that promotes crime prevention efforts, police-community partnership and neighborhood camaraderie. Artist Erwin Redl is collaborating with the city’s police and fire departments, and neighborhood associations selected through a competitive process, to design and develop LED light installations that transform open spaces and create safer and more vibrant neighborhoods.

Cities of all sizes applied to the Public Art Challenge. Nearly half of the 237 submissions were from cities with populations fewer than 100,000 residents; 38 percent had populations between 100,000 and 500,000; and 13 percent of the applicant cities had more than 500,000 residents. A variety of artistic disciplines were represented amongst the applications: 61% of the proposed public art projects involved visual art, 19 percent combined multiple disciplines, 17 percent featured digital media, and three percent focused on the performing arts.

Submissions were evaluated on a number of factors, including their potential viability as dynamic public art projects, impact on civic issues, community engagement strategies, and capacity to establish or strengthen public-private partnerships.

More information about the Public Art Challenge and the four grantees can be found on

Bloomberg Philanthropies has a proven track record of supporting creative and innovative public art that enlivens urban landscapes. In 2014, Bloomberg Philanthropies supported artist Tobias Rehberger’s Dazzle Ship in London as part of 14-18 NOW, WW1 Centenary Art Commissions, and Liverpool Biennial; We the People, Dahn Vo’s multi-site exhibition in New York City, organized by Public Art Fund; and Doug and Mike Starn’s Big Bambú installation in Jerusalem.

About Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies’ mission is to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: Public Health, Environment, Education, Government Innovation and the Arts. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable activities, including his foundation and his personal giving. In 2014, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $462 million. For more information on the philanthropy, please visit or follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @BloombergDotOrg.

Contact: Bloomberg Philanthropies, Rebecca Carriero, 212-205-0182,