We’re on a big public art kick lately at CDA. If you have construction sites, scaffolding, or other eyesores in your district that could use some camouflaging – read on! 

We conducted an email interview with New York’s Downtown Alliance‘s Director of Special Projects, Whitney Barrat, this week about the Alliance’s successful Re:Construction program, which turns construction sites in Lower Manhattan into canvasses for artwork. The program has been going strong since 2007, made possible by a Community Enhancement Grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC). The Alliance works with arts consultants, site owners, developers and City agencies to select artists’ proposals that are a good fit for both the specific site available, as well as the local community.

Part of the reason for the program’s success is the Alliance’s trusted presence in the district and ongoing involvement with local development projects and property owners. The program has been so well-received that property owners often approach the Alliance to offer their sites, without having been asked!
Here are some of the works you can find around the district today, followed by some helpful lessons for other district managers looking to bring a similar program to their districts:
The Greatest City on Earth
(Nassau Street between John & Fulton Streets)
Secret Gardens – Richard Pasquarelli
(Chambers Street)
 

What lessons do you have for other BIDs/community groups that might want to do a similar project? 
  • It is important for artists and site owners alike to understand that construction sites shift, with respect to their physical parameters, their schedules, and budgets. Be flexible!
  • Consider permit requirements (DOB and DOT), as well as insurance.
  • Consider involving the surrounding community in the selection of artists.
  • Consider maintenance costs and responsibility—who will maintain the site? How will repairs be handled?
  •  Don’t forget to plan for deinstallation!

Do you think something like this would be possible for a smaller BID who might not have access to grant money?
  • Yes!   Many other BIDs have followed our lead and have produced artwork on construction sites in their districts. Because of our grant, we’ve never needed to ask site owners to contribute to the costs of the production and installation of the artworks, so fundraising will be more of an issue for a smaller BID or community group. But the costs associated with these projects tend not to be exorbitant, and often the site owners are willing to cover the costs.