Copy Cat! Bloomberg Public Arts Challenge is Familiar, but in Good Ways

"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," goes the old saying. In the case of recent news out of New York, we'd like to modify that statement. "Selective imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." Or, in the case of Bloomberg Philanthropies' new Public Art Challenge, cherry-picking elements of other art challenges is not only flattering, it also makes a ton of sense. After all, why invent something from scratch when you don't have to?

Let's set it up.

Bloomberg's new Public Art Challenge invites U.S. cities to develop "temporary public art projects that enchance cultural and economic activity" while establishing "robust public-private partnerships between local government and other funders." Some other tidbits:

  • Mayors in cities with populations of 30,000 or more can submit proposals beginning October 13, 2014 for visual, performing arts and multimedia projects.
  • Finalists will be selected in February. At least three cities will be chosen in May. Each will receive $1 million to develop projects over two years.
  • Applicants will need to demonstrate the ability to create projects that strengthen public-private partnerships.
  • Application deadline is December 15, 2014.

If this approach sounds familiar, well, it's because it should. To our eyes and ears, it resembles a mash-up of two of the more progressive arts challenge initiatives out there. First, the Knight Foundation's Art Challenges obviously come to mind. Knight encourages applicants to submit ideas that will make their respective cities more vibrant and "turn everyday moments into artistic experiences."

Bloomberg's new initiative also astutely picks up on the growing popularity of "creative placemaking," an exciting concept that reimagines the traditional idea of public art. As defined by one of its major proponents ArtPlace America, creative placemaking "shapes the social, physical, and economic futures of communities" and that it needn't be a permanent thing.

Not coincidentally, Bloomberg is calling for "temporary public art projects" that "bring people together to experience public places in dynamic and transformative ways."

The one major difference between Bloomberg's effort and those of Knight and ArtPlace America? As previously noted, applications must be submitted by the mayor or chief executive of the host city and on behalf of a collaboration between the host city and an artist and/or arts organization.