One of the vacant buildings illuminated as part of the “Breathing Lights” project in upstate New York. The initiative received $1 million in funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies for the 2014 Public Art Challenge. Photo: Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Bloomberg Philanthropies to Grant Up to $1 Million for Public Art Projects

Bloomberg Philanthropies, the foundation that encompasses all of former New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable activities, has announced the launch of an initiative that will award up to $1 million in funding to public art projects that address civic issues. Mayors of US cities with thirty thousand residents can submit proposals for works that will be evaluated on their ability to generate public-private collaborations, celebrate creativity and urban identity, and strengthen local economies. Called the Public Art Challenge, the initiative aims to encourage mayors to partner with artists to develop solutions to significant urban issues.

The first version of the initiative was announced in 2014. More than 230 cities entered proposals, which addressed issues ranging from neighborhood safety to environmental sustainability. In 2015, four projects were funded: “Breathing Lights,” a joint effort between the the cities of Albany, Schenectady, and Troy that illuminated vacant buildings across the New York capital region in order to elevate the issues of vacancy and urban revitalization; “ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen,” which transformed an underutilized building in Gary, Indiana, into a cultural hub for visual and culinary arts; CURRENT: LA Water, Los Angeles’s first public art biennial, which focused on issues related to conservation, ecology, and drought; and “Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light,” which collaborated with the police and fire departments in Spartanburg, South Carolina, to bring light and media art installations to the city. According to a national impact study, the projects catalyzed $13 million for the four regions' local economies.

“The Public Art Challenge brings people together to look at issues from new perspectives and uncover new solutions. The winning projects from the first competition all made a real and lasting impact in their cities,” said Bloomberg. “We’re looking forward to seeing what ideas emerge from this year’s competition and how they can help to build a strong future for communities around the country.”