Arts & Cultural Vitality / 2013
The A LOT Initiative: Using Art to Activate Vacant City Lots
Our A LOT Initiative will foster a stronger community identity, a sense of place, and revitalize economic development by way of supporting creative activity. Free events will promote the concept of creative placemaking, encouraging our community to animate public and private spaces, rejuvenate streetscapes, improve local business viability and public safety, while bringing together diverse people to celebrate, to inspire, and to be inspired. The A Lot Initiative will begin in Fall 2013. A LOT's primary goal is to broaden audience and artist engagement, as well as, expand geographic scope, with underserved communities especially benefiting. Rather than placing cultural activities in enclosed venues for a limited number of people for a couple of hours, the objective is to enliven vacant lots, streets, and entire areas with creative energy -- sound, light, visual art, and performance -- for days or even weeks at a time. In addition to engaging residents in the arts, A LOT is intended to increase pedestrian traffic and enliven streets with vacant storefronts, thus creating prospects for both "pop-up" and more permanent businesses to revitalize these neighborhoods. The projects' mobility is intended to offer this transformative opportunity to multiple neighborhoods creating lasting impact throughout the city.
What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?
Recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Our Town Grant for $150,000. The Arts Council was one of 80 organizations selected from a pool of 317 applicants. And, 1 of 6 organizations to receive the highest amount. The Arts Council serves over 2500 students each year in the Arts Learning program. Every October, Long Beach Arts Month promotes over 500 events for National Arts and Humanities Month in Long Beach. This calendar reaches over 100,000 people all over Los Angeles. On average each year, the Arts Council distributes over 40 grants to artists and community based nonprofit arts organizations.
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
A LOT aims to serve low-income residents by linking arts and culture participation with the mission of redevelopment, helping to revitalize economically-challenged neighborhoods with world-class performances that will increase social and economic activity. Because of these shared goals, the project is being planned and implemented as a partnership between ACLB and Long Beach Development Services, a local government agency. Other partners in this effort include local neighborhood associations and groups, as well as business improvement districts throughout the city.
Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?
The primary intended outcome of the project is that the Long Beach and Los Angeles County will be strengthened through the arts. A secondary outcome is public engagement with diverse and excellent art. Quantitative performance measurements of both outcomes will include the numbers of performances, artists, audiences, locations, and neighborhoods that participate. In addition to the quantitative performance measurements, the Arts Council for Long Beach will work with its primary partner, Long Beach Development Services, to evaluate the qualitative impact of the project on the communities involved. The partners will assess the level of increased social and economic vitality in areas where performances take place, such as reduction of blight; businesses opened in vacant storefronts; new gathering spaces; positive reporting in the media; and increase in membership in neighborhood and block associations. The partners will also work with the community to gather to anecdotal evidence of change, such as increase in neighborhood pride; and greater interaction of cultures and ethnic groups. This information will be gathered through surveys and interviews with key staff of the partners and leaders of the community.
How will your project benefit Los Angeles?
Arts Council for Long Beach and its partners have embarked on a unique, initiative that blends arts participation with community redevelopment. The A LOT Initiative will improve the vitality of traditionally underserved neighborhood and enliven the areas through arts participation. A LOT encourages the presence and participation in cultural opportunities by bringing art into communities. It furthers support of cultural participation by creating art opportunities in areas where previously there was limited to no access to the arts. A LOT allows new audiences to experience art in their neighborhood. While the current structure and focus of the initiative is on underserved neighborhoods and residents in the Long Beach area, the project’s concepts can be applied throughout the region.
What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?
In 2050, A LOT’s success will be seen throughout Los Angeles as vacant lots become cultural hubs bringing communities together. These spaces will transform the cultural landscape of communities building arts participation and engaging audiences. All LA residents will have access to high-quality performances and arts experiences in their own neighborhoods, but also people from throughout the region can visit other neighborhoods and communities to experience art there, thus breaking down some of the geographic barriers that currently segregate LA economically and culturally. Arts will also be a primary consideration in civic planning, development, and transportation.