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Bloomberg Philanthropies is partnering with the cities to help them revitalize streets and public spaces and make them safer through its Asphalt Art Initiative.
Bloomberg Philanthropies awarded 26 U.S. cities grants to help transform streets and public spaces through its Asphalt Art Initiative. Each city will be awarded up to $25,000 to install their projects in 2022-23, the organization says.
The Asphalt Art Initiative provides funds and technical support for arts-driven street redesigns that improve safety, revitalize public spaces and engage local communities. In 10 of the cities, the Asphalt Art Initiative will work on enhancing pedestrian and cyclist safety. The cities included are:
- Kansas City, Missouri
- Long Beach, California
- Memphis, Tennessee
- San Juan, Puerto Rico
- St. Louis
- Tucson, Arizona
- Wilmington, Delaware
In seven of the cities the initiative will work on improving pedestrian plazas and public spaces. The cities included are:
- Birmingham, Alabama
- Fairbanks, Alaska
- Newark, New Jersey
- Providence, Rhode Island
- Syracuse, New York
In nine of the cities the initiative will be adding murals to intersections and crosswalks. The cities included are:
- Billings, Montana
- East Providence, Rhode Island
- Huntington, West Virginia
- Kodiak, Alaska
- New Brunswick, New Jersey
- Niagara Falls, New York
- Starkville, Mississippi
- Tallahassee, Florida
In 2020, 16 cities received grants for arts projects, including Kansas City, Missouri, where DuRon Netsell, head of the Kansas City-based urban design firm Street Smarts Design + Build, worked with city officials and local artists to revamp the busy intersection in his neighborhood.
The project boasted a host of changes, including the addition of two stop signs and four curb extensions—open spaces with boundaries marked by boulders and planters instead of solid slabs of concrete. Each extension encompasses roughly 400 square feet of asphalt, which the city turned over to four local artists to use as a canvas.
The project helped revamp part of the Midwest locality while also reducing vehicle speeds by 45%, shortening pedestrian crossing distances by half, and reducing noise levels by 10 to 12 decibels, according to survey data from the city.
“Asphalt art projects help cities reclaim public spaces, make them brighter and safer and build community–all-important goals, especially amid the continuing hardships of the pandemic,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and a former New York City mayor, said in a statement. “Cities that tap into the power of public art bring new life and energy to city streets, inspiring residents and fostering a shared spirit of neighborhood pride. There can be real civic strength in public art, and this program helps cities capitalize on it.”
Editor's note: This story was updated to fix an error.
Andre Claudio is assistant editor at Route Fifty.
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