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CMSC Webinar Recap: Using Public Art for a More Vibrant & Welcoming Community

CMSC Webinar

Using Public Art for a More Vibrant & Welcoming Community

Webinar Summary

When public art is supported and implemented thoughtfully and strategically, it adds tremendous cultural, aesthetic, and economic value to a community by facilitating a sense of place and community pride. It encourages civic engagement and builds social capital through raising public awareness of important local issues and connecting residents to their neighbors and their shared history.

In this webinar, our panel from around the country and Connecticut speaks to innovative public art programs that provide economic impact and create more inclusive communities.

Presentation Highlights


  • The Importance of Public Art & Support – Connecticut Office of the Arts

    The arts provide meaning to our lives:

    • 69% of the population believe the arts “lift me up beyond everyday experiences”
    • 73% feel the arts give them “pure pleasure to experience and participate in”
    • 81% say the arts are a “positive experience in a troubled world”

    Source Americans for the Arts

    Top 5 types of arts projects people favor for government funding:

    1. To provide art in parks, downtown areas, and other public places (72%)
    2. For returning military personnel, to aid in their transition to civilian life (70%)
    3. To provide arts and culture programs for the elderly (70%)
    4. To beautify blighted or abandoned areas (69%)
    5. To promote pro-social behavior with at-risk youth (69%)

    Source Americans for the Arts

    Quality of life matters:

    • 99% of the CEOs who were questioned stated that the availability of cultural activities in an area is an important consideration in choosing a new location Source Project for Public Spaces

    CT Office of the Arts provides programming to help communities implement meaningful art projects:

    • AIR Collaborative “is a field-tested and iterative, three-step pathway designed to build innovation and economic sustainability” through facilitated community meetings.

    For more information contact: Tamara Dimitri – tamara.dimitri@ct.gov or visit ct.gov/arts

  • Murals: Examples of Public Art – The Rise Up Group, Inc

    RiseUP is a Connecticut-based non-profit that provides localized, end-to-end placemaking and public art management. Services include:

    • Project management
    • Fundraising strategy (can serve as a fiscal sponsor)
    • Government relations
    • Community engagement
    • Execution strategy and advising
    • Connector/facilitator
    • Artistic management
    • Artist database

    The organization focuses on exclusively using local artists for community projects; 60% of their artists are people of color.

    Learn more and get in touch at theriseupgroup.org.

  • Light Art – Portland Winter Light Festival

    Portland Winter Light Festival is a family-friendly, city-wide temporary light art placemaking event that takes place in February based in Portland, Oregon.

    The festival started in 2016 with no city funding and had 30,000 visitors to its latest event in 2022 bringing in 189,000 attendees and generated $3.7m in estimated economic impact. The city now provides some funding, but the majority of funders are from private donors and sponsors.

    Of note:

    • Anchor sites – The festival has multiple dynamic anchor sites and has smaller installations throughout the city in smaller installations. The anchor sites have the power to bring people to areas that have gained a negative perception and reset their understanding of a place. For example, downtown Portland’s reputation was tarnished during COVID and protests, but the festival brought people back downtown to reestablish the narrative.
    • Involving businesses – The festival attracts small businesses, parking lots, and hotels to be a host site for pop-up installations. There is an application process, but the festival also reaches out to business. “We try to tailor participation to the interest of the industry. For example, architecture firms participate by having their staff create art installations that highlight the creativity of their firm. Hotel Partners offer lobby spaces and a small sponsorship in exchange for recognition on a list of participating hotels in the hopes that will lead to room rentals. We have a call for venue participants (businesses of any kind) who want to host artwork in their windows, and that is really tied to revenue generation and community engagement. Over time, our hope is to help build a network of creatives and businesses that can work together to place artwork in various venues so that they are pulling creatives from their own neighborhoods to show art in their spaces and creating clusters of activation. I do think private businesses have an important role to play in building the artistic landscape of our cities, and it seems that more businesses are seeing the intrinsic value of participating.” – Alisha Sullivan, Executive Director in follow-up email exchange
    • Survey teams – The festival deploys survey teams throughout the event to get feedback and to count attendees. This data is critical to demonstrate value to stakeholders and calculate economic impact.

    For more information, visit www.pdxwlf.com or reach out to Alisha Sullivan at director@pdxwlf.com

  • Music & Night-Time Economy – Sound Diplomacy

    Big Ideas:

    • “A chamber of culture is as important as a Chamber of Commerce and cultural infrastructure plans are key.” For further explanation from a follow-up email with Kate Durio, “Chambers of Culture look at culture as more than just art for art’s sake and recognize the economic and tourism value and quality of life afforded by culture. Seeing artists and cultural businesses as entrepreneurs and businesses instead of ‘starving artists’ requires a culture shift backed by policy makers, tourism offices, business developers and even city planners. This is how it goes beyond just an art’s council, for instance. Sometimes starting small is enough to get going, by establishing regular meetings of tourism, economic development, local government, arts agencies, etc. With a focused agenda, shared objectives and clear roles for all involved, a community can accomplish a lot if participants all commit.”
    • Invest in people already present” – Exemplified in Tulsa, Oklahoma they focused on supported their local artists in small, impactful ways instead of investing in large public projects like an amphitheater.
    • Create policy that supports musicians – Sound Diplomacy provides a Top 10 list of key policies that can support musicians, night-time economy, and other creatives. Some policies are a large undertaking and others are smaller, incremental steps with a powerful impact. For example, creating busking policies that encourage street performers, loading zones for musicians so they can easily set up at their night venue, and having more than one person in charge of special permitting.

    Free Resources:

    Other Reading:

    For more information, visit www.sounddiplomacy.com or reach out to Kate Durio at Kate@SoundDiplomacy.com.


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Other Resources

View additional Placemaking resources from CMSC, our members and the many organizations we partner with.

About the Speakers

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