Art Works Blog

MICD 25 Spotlight on Long Beach, California

Long Beach, California

Conceptual proposal for Urban Lab by Greenmeme: Freya Bardell and Brian Howe.

For more than 30 years, the Public Corporation for the Arts of the City of Long Beach---more commonly known as the Arts Council for Long Beach (ACLB)---has supported arts and culture activities by individual artists and by local arts organizations, including the Khmer Arts Academy and Long Beach Opera. The arts council's Department of Public Art and Design manages the city's civic improvement projects, including Urban Lab, a program aimed at addressing the prevalence of underutilized spaces in the city though public art programming. We spoke with ACLB Executive Director Craig Watson and Public Art and Design Director Leslie Sean Markle about ACLB's MICD 25 project.

NEA: Please describe your project and how you hope it will benefit the residents of Long Beach.

ACLB: Long Beach is one of the most diverse, large cities in America with neighborhoods that are culturally "rich", but public space "poor." The MICD 25 project will engage the art and design community in imagining solutions. Collaborative planning between the Long Beach Redevelopment Agency and the Arts Council has identified a critical need for the establishment of a portable performance venue for use in neighborhoods within the City that are currently underserved by the arts. The Mobile Arts and Architecture project is aimed at addressing the prevalence of vacant lots and underutilized spaces through the incorporation of a thoughtful and proactive cultural planning strategy and is intended to result in the creation of a design that will bring performances to families and children in Long Beach neighborhoods. Artist-architect teams will be commissioned to design a portable performance venue that is intended to transform these spaces into ones of creative activity. The commissioned design will be site-sensitive, relevant to the surrounding community, flexible, portable, architecturally significant, and will improve visual character and overall site functionality. The Mobile Arts and Architecture project is further intended to increase the economic viability of neighbor­hoods through the elimination of blight and increased cultural tourism.

NEA: Why is it important to have arts and culture at the table when planning community revitalization efforts?

ACLB: The Long Beach Redevelopment Agency and the Arts Council recognize that arts and culture contribute greatly as core components in building livable and sustainable communities and that the art of placemaking contributes to the community?s economic and cultural vitality. The arts are an essential component in the creation of civic identity and their presence contributes to a shared heritage and serves to honor a community?s history and culture.

NEA: Given the nature of your MICD 25 project, how would you define public art?

ACLB: Public art is defined through praxis in the field through a wide range of artists? projects which are, by their nature, collaborative.

NEA: How do you think having flexible presenting venues enhances the civic life of a community?

ACLB: The creation of flexible presentation venues enhances the civic life of a community by making programming available to communities that are traditionally underserved by the arts due to a lack of cultural infrastructure in close proximity to these communities.

NEA: How important is MICD 25 funding to the success of your project?

ACLB: NEA MICD 25 funding is essential for the success of the Mobile Arts and Architecture project and represents nearly half of the budget for the design phase.

NEA: Any last words?

ACLB: The Mobile Arts and Architecture project is designed to promote collaboration between artists and architects and has been planned in collaboration with the Long Beach Redevelopment Agency. By including the Khmer Arts Academy and Long Beach Opera (each are NEA grantees) in our planning for the design competition specifications, we expect to receive design solutions that are flexible enough to showcase very diverse art forms and these cultural expressions.

Read more about the Mayors' Institute on City Design 25th Anniversary initiative on the MICD 25 page on our website.

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