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Arts & Cultural Vitality / 2013

OUT THE WINDOW: Videos on LA buses

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by L.A. Freewaves

PROJECT SUMMARY Out the Window will transform our daily commute. A million Angelenos will wake up and go home not to the drivel of commercial TV but to innovative, informative videos that not only teach them, but also engage them – surround them in art. How? On the bus! Yes, the bus – reversing the popular vision of transit from a drudge to a recharging experience – aiding in our efforts to create a multi-transit Los Angeles, while bringing art (real, experimental art) to people who often feel locked out of the city’s museums and galleries. Art should be, will be everywhere. Out the Window makes that happen. FULL PROPOSAL DESCRIPTION Bus riders, Out the Window’s target audience, are 2/3 Latino, half female, half under age 34 and predominantly low income, a difficult demographic to connect to inexpensively. Reaching this population of 1,000,000 riders per day with transformative health, social, and cultural information during their daily commutes improves the quality of life, increases riders, creates urban dialogue, treats people as people instead a pair of consumer eyeballs. The buses can be our mobile art museums for everyone. Out The Window videos will be: • 1/3 by artists on the full breadth of issues of concern to them • 1/3 about community health such as access to nutritious food, obesity amelioration, and promotion of healthful lifestyles and • 1/3 about other issues, such as environmental, educational and social, produced by LA nonprofit organizations. • A portion of each category will be made by LA youth enrolled in video programs. • also appear on and Freewaves facebook page daily for viewers’ comments and sharing In 2013-14 Out the Window will present 312 videos, (6 per week) each with an open-ended, pointed question in English and Spanish to which viewers may respond via text. The combination of message and feedback loop will be a powerful carrier of vital dialogs by, about and in Los Angeles among the 85% of riders who use cell phones. Out the Window uses Transit TV’s video system on all 2,000 L.A. Metro buses, reaching Los Angeles’s residents with creative and essential messages while providing free culture on the largest art distribution system in the country to the nation’s most populous county. This program is ready to fully established this year. It launched in 2010 with a MacArthur grant; it tested technologies, networks, viewers and programming in 2011. It gathered resources in 2012 and now is ready to take off with all elements in place! IMPACT ON THE ARTS AND CULTURAL VITALITY Socio-politically, the arts increasingly reflect the ever-widening divergence of economic, educational and cultural access facing Los Angeles and the nation. This may be observed in the unfortunate schisms between so-called “high” and “low” culture; and between profit-driven mass culture and artist-initiated personal and community expressions. Freewaves believes there are many good solutions to close the gap. Through its unwavering faith in every person to understand idiosyncratic artistic styles and ideas, Freewaves asserts the human right of every person to access their communities’ artistic expressions. Freewaves’ optimism is firmly based in the statistical analysis of our 540 interviews undertaken during the pilot phase of Out the Window. Specifically, 91% of bus rider respondents indicated they liked art. Half found that art was present on the bus, in some form, while half did not perceive any art on the same buses. Of the respondents, 73% regularly watched the TV programming available on all L.A. Metro buses. The programming tells stories, shares creative impressions and offers critical insights about Los Angeles. See for previous examples of the artists’ videos that reflect a range of subjects and styles including performances in urban public spaces, background information about LA neighborhoods, animated scenarios, ruminations about nature and investigations of other art forms. The next round of videos on the buses will add issues impacting health, such as: availability of affordable, healthful exercise options, regional disparities in health and nutrition services and dangers of lead paint and asbestos. The bus-riding population has profound health needs; many commuters traverse neighborhoods lacking access to nutritious food, parks, and adequate health and wellness resources. Furthermore, because 33% of bus riders lack Internet access, consuming mostly mainstream media, bus riders comprise an expensive demographic for health service providers to reach. Videos will be made by many of L.A.’s media artists, ranging from emerging to established, plus students in the region. After consultation with health and wellness specialists, they will eloquently and entertainingly address specific health issues and point the public towards affordable or cost-free solutions.

What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

Since its inception 24 years ago as an umbrella organization uniting the many diverse media voices of greater Los Angeles, Freewaves has pioneered artists’ use of every new development in the field.

Beginning with its successful efforts to bridge the 1990s divide between mostly small, culturally specific media arts centers, Freewaves has established itself as one of the most adventurous advocates for raising media arts to a truly democratic vector for ideas and images.

Freewaves’ activities have consistently been in the vanguard of the field, models for others to emulate. Specific areas in which it led the way include:

• Placing experimental media arts in public spaces, reaching hundreds of thousand of people who may never have seen art in this genre;

• Showing 3000 artists’ works

• Producing 11 festivals celebrating the newest artistic developments;

• Positing live internet links as an art form;

• Positioning interactive media (CD-Roms) as predecessor to web interactivity;

• Placing experimental media arts on cable, PBS and public access television, plus in all L.A. libraries and high schools;

• Presenting large format, video display of experimental media arts on video billboards previously dedicated almost exclusively to paid advertising;

• Engaging international, web-implemented curation of its festivals, using the latest web technology to stream hundred of hours of video worldwide;

• Offering workshops bringing new media technologies to underserved communities and to working artists seeking new avenues of expression.

• Exhibiting videos at Hammer, MOCA, LACMA, Getty, and 100 other venues

Out the Window’s excellence has been acknowledged with numerous extremely competitive grants from MacArthur, Rockefeller, Warhol, Durfee and Irvine Foundations, National Endowment for the Arts, California Arts Council, Los Angeles County Arts Commission and The City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and others, leading to two critical awards: one of L.A. Weekly’s Top Ten Art Projects of the Year, and Public Art Review’s Top 50 National Projects of the Year.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Transit TV, whose 4,000 bus-based video monitors, will display a continuous one-hour loop of programming on all L.A. Metro buses.

The UCLA Center for Research in Engineering, Media and Performance (REMAP) is supplying the interactive tech methodology and implementation.

Echo Park Film Center and Public Matters will provide many of the student videos.

USC’s Price School of Public Policy and Annenberg School of Communication will advise on health content and sharpen the evaluation process.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

Freewaves is working with specialists such as Professor David Sloane, an expert in health policy and neighborhoods at USC’s Price School of Public Policy. He has identified realizable criteria and methodologies, to be facilitated by graduate students, which will provide assessments of Out the Window’s impact on bus riders. Both qualitative and quantitative approaches are being developed to assure a statistically and anecdotally useful set of materials for future projects.

A questionnaire co-designed by various specialists and administered at bus stops in past iterations of Out the Window has been refined for 2013 for three stages: the beginning, midpoint and end of the project. With a target sample of 250 interviews per round, we will assess how repeated, daily exposure to the project has impacted the bus riders’ awareness of issues and appreciation of art. If funding permits, we will also run focus groups about the videos in advance of the bus screenings.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

Out the Windows will benefit Los Angeles beyond its impact for “Arts and Cultural Vitality”. By using the indicator that is performing well, art in the public sphere, Out the Window will assist four other of LA 2050’s key indicators.

Health: Perhaps one of the most pressing issues facing bus riders is health access, a key issue being addressed in this proposal. One in five Californians are uninsured, and in many districts of Los Angeles this number is even higher. Out the Window will provide Angelinos with key information about specific health issues and means to address them including motivation and methods to access insurance and enroll in the Affordable Care Act/California Exchange.

Environment: With so much of our current health inextricably tied to environmental issues, the art of Out the Window will impact this key indicator with informative videos geared to individuals’ efforts, showing what can we do to improve and protect our environs.

Social Connectedness: Los Angeles’ social connectedness will be enhanced through the public exhibition and the interactive aspects of the project. The project will create opportunities for bus riders to engage with each other, local organizations, students and artists by responding to the videos. It will also inevitably incite dialogue with other bus riders, their neighbors, communities, etc.

Education: Out the Window will create a more informed, curious and motivated art-making and consuming public. Students who can publicly display their labors will more likely continue making videos. From this increased visibility, a percentage will find the inspiration to utilize the ever-growing means of creating video, encouraging a new generation of video makers, writers, animators etc. to advance the aesthetic and social power of communication in an era of social media.

We have already commissioned the following notable artists: • Mel Chin, world renowned artist, to address lead prevention in L.A. • Yoshua Okon to examine food industry and childhood obesity • Poli Marisol to explore mental health in relation to food consumption • Lisa Marr and Paolo Davanzo to look at diverse culture’s health practices • John Jota Leanos to describe environmental justice • Ann Kaneko to show the visible and invisible benefits of Chi Gong

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

Art is passing from isolation, to intervention, to participation, to engagement, to a glorious ubiquity in which currently accepted and recognized disciplines and aesthetics evolve into new forms of public art. With the blazingly fast developments in technology, we have witnessed an integration of disciplines, in which computing and telecommunication devices have fostered a new hybrid of public and private art, one that, by 2050, will have taken forms beyond prediction. Art will be everywhere, an integrated member of society for all.

Out the Window will play a significant role in that evolution, hastening the democratization of art and communication through its daily dissemination to the bus riding public and, in the future, to other constituencies whose daily lives bring them into contact with videos, hand-held devices and means of sound and image distribution birthed by today’s technologies.