Civic Art as Infrastructure

Report + Documentary

Susannah Laramee Kidd and Sara Daleiden

The report evaluates the success of arts-based strategies in shifting perceptions, increasing positive activity, reducing graffiti vandalism, building a sense of community ownership and building capacity for future arts and culture activities at the sites. Ultimately, the report highlights the role of embedding meaningful engagement activities in public art as an important aspect of government investment in communities. Like libraries, parks and recreation centers themselves, artwork is part of civic infrastructure, understood as physical structures and spaces, as well as social processes of management and use that animate them. Programs offered in these spaces are part of the infrastructure that builds and supports relationships between community members and also between community members and government. This evaluation demonstrates how physical and social artworks in these kinds of everyday civic spaces can contribute to community development and help to ensure that everyone has access to the benefits of arts and culture.

Two aspects of the report that may be of particular interest for this group are that the report contains a short literature review of murals and graffiti abatement, public art and engagement, civic engagement and programs at parks and libraries, and creative placemaking evaluation. And the report contains recommendations for embedding evaluators in similar art projects, with a particular focus on partnering with artists in evaluation, as well as recommendations for implementing artist-led engagement projects.

Sara Daleiden worked with videographer Mark Escribano to develop a documentary video chronicling the development of each artwork, Civic Art: Four Stories from South Los Angeles. This video serves as a tool to demystify the production of civic art for the public and to increase the capacity of artists and civic leaders in engagement and civic art development.

The documentary delves into the world of Los Angeles-based artists as they negotiate with the government and local neighborhoods to produce ambitious civic artworks. This film also highlights the vital, complicated and often misunderstood efforts behind these artworks while exploring the social power of art within four South LA County neighborhoods.