Bloomberg Philanthropies has picked projects in Atlanta, Baltimore, Honolulu, Houston, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Salt Lake City as the winners of its 2023 Public Arts Challenge grants. Each of the eight US cities will receive $1m to execute temporary public art projects in response to pressing social issues in their communities, with Bloomberg emphasising endeavours related to “climate change, equity, food insecurity, gun violence, homelessness, public health and revitalisation”. Artists Derrick Adams and Juan William Chavez have been confirmed as participants in the programme, while others are expected to be announced in the coming months. The eight winning project proposals were selected from more than 150 applicants across 40 states.
Projects concerning climate change include those in Phoenix and Salt Lake City, with both aiming to increase visitors to public spaces amidst drastic changes to local climate and environments. While Phoenix’s proposal offers nine artists the opportunity to design installations that provide shade for residents who are outside during extreme heat waves, Salt Lake City’s proposal seeks to draw residents to public art installations on the shore of the Great Salt Lake, facilitating conversations regarding persistent drought and the conservation of the rapidly-depleting body of water.
Atlanta and Orlando’s winning projects are concerned with food and public health, pairing exhibitions of local cuisine with education efforts aimed at improving healthcare and nutrition. For Atlanta, this will involve community dinners and art installations, culminating in a festival centered around racial equity and public health. The project in Orlando, enlisting the aid of Juan William Chavez, will foster collaboration between artists and farmers to produce art installations on the topic of nutrition.
Baltimore, Houston and Philadelphia will all begin community revitalisation and inclusion projects, promoting increases in safety and respect between residents. Baltimore will establish a Derrick Adams-led public lighting initiative, decided upon after extensive consultation with representatives from the Station North arts neighbourhood. Philadelphia will hold poetry workshops and installations in the Germantown neighbourhood, giving locals a platform to process and speak out against gun violence through literature. Houston will look to change public perception towards the rapidly increasing number of homeless residents in the city, pairing currently unsheltered individuals with artists for a series of art installations.
Honolulu will focus on a unique effort to educate residents on the indigenous history of locations throughout the city. By focusing on neighbourhoods and areas already notable for their culture, the project seeks to deepen understanding of local history and heritage.
The Public Arts Challenge has been held twice prior to the 2023 edition, supporting projects as varied as climate change centered arts incubators in Anchorage, Alaska, and programmes to replace illegal dumping with sculpture in Camden, New Jersey. Bloomberg Philanthropies claims more than “$100m in economic benefit for local economies” was generated by the winning projects of the 2018 edition, and publicity from more than “10 million visitors across four projects” throughout the 2014 edition. Current winners are expected to plan and execute their proposals over the coming two years.