LA Art With a Message Wins Big With Bloomberg Philanthropies

Bloomberg Philanthropies announced that it is awarding the City of Los Angeles a million dollars over the next two years "to support temporary public art projects that celebrate creativity, enhance urban identity, encourage public-private partnerships, and drive economic development."

In addition to Los Angeles, other winners of Bloomberg’s Public Art Challenge include Spartanburg, South Carolina; Gary, Indiana; and a group of three cities in Upstate New York: Albany, Schenectady and Troy.

The Los Angeles project is more than urban decoration. The artworks, displayed along the Los Angeles River, will educate the public about water conservation and the drought. Along much of its 51 miles, the river looks like an open storm drain. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has prioritized restoring the ecosystem. “If you love art, the river and our city, you will love that we just won $1 million from Bloomberg to bring public art to the L.A. River,” said Garcetti at the announcement.

There is no better example of the negative consequences of climate change than the West’s current drought, exemplified by the trickle of water now flowing in the L.A. River. One focus of Michael Bloomberg’s charitable work is climate change. Bloomberg has backed a couple of major climate initiatives. The first, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, is a coalition of 75 of the world’s largest cities with more than 550 million people and one quarter of the global economy. C40’s goal is reducing greenhouse gases through policies and programs that are both scalable and replicable. While he was mayor of New York City, he served as the chair of C40 from 2010 to 2013. He is now president of its board of directors.

Bloomberg has also partnered with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign to wean America from the dirtiest fossil fuel. Bloomberg made a $50 million commitment to the campaign that will clean the air, end the coal era, and speed up the adoption of cleaner, more cost-effective energy sources while fighting for the retirement of coal-fired power plants. Los Angeles pledged to dump coal as a power-generating source by 2025; so far, it’s the biggest city to do so. Bloomberg has also given $6.5 million to EMBARQ, which has helped bring about sustainable urban transportation solutions in more than half a dozen countries.

Bloomberg philanthropy leverages philanthropic dollars to effect policy change, which is probably one reason why the drought and conservation thrust of L.A’s public art was so appealing. And his interest in LA isn't new. In 2013, Bloomberg gave a million dollars to an initiative run by Garcetti’s predecessor, Antonio Villaraigosa. The mayor’s Coalition for School Reform tried to oust L.A. Unified School District board member Steve Zimmer, elect Antonio Sanchez and retain incumbent Monica Garcia. The coalition only managed to re-elect Garcia. Bloomberg should get more satisfaction from sponsoring L.A.’s urban art.