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October 7, 2021, more than 50 attendees participated in a robust conversation about measuring the value of public art moderated by Carmen Zella, Founder & Chief Curator, NOW Art. The panel was made up of Adam J. Fowler, Director of Research at Beacon Economics, who addressed the social, cultural, and economic impact of public art with an emphasis on the LA Region. Kevin Davey, Director, USA Urban Art Projects (UAP) shared best practices and case studies of public art projects nationally and internationally to illustrate different ways to measure the return on investment, and Ellen Riotto, Executive Director, South Park Businesses Improvement District shared examples of public art that creates a sense of community and economic vibrance to a relatively young residential area in downtown Los Angeles.
Historically measuring the value of public art has been anyone’s best guess. Now we have data and insights to ensure developers can integrate public art into a project and show its value on a proforma.
Because of LA’s unique characteristics, there is an opportunity to lead the way in pushing the creative overlap of the Art and Real Estate sectors. The Otis Creative Economy Report illustrates the value to the community when local artists are engaged, another way to look at the value proposition of Public Art. Artists jobs are more prevalent in Los Angeles as is shown by the 8.4% (1,734) increase in employed artists over the past 5 years. There are 224% more artists in the LA Region than in an average region, which leads to a robust talent pool. The artist talent is more ethnically diverse than most regions which mirror the native population and leads to more natural integration in diverse neighborhoods. When artist households are healthy financially their spending goes right back into the community.
In the past 20 years, artists and their related industries have proven to be very powerful in Los Angeles and have seen continued growth with only one slight dip during the recession. Commercial real estate permitting bounced back relatively quickly after the recession while also looking for ways to differentiate with artists’ collaborations through added amenities, programming, and curated experiences, further demonstrating the power of the intersection of art and industry.
Historically economists have been reticent to measure the value of art because there is often NOT a control group, the metrics are not black & white, and there hasn’t been much interest – until recently. As robust public art programs continue to be a mainstay in development so will the development of stronger metrics. Today the real estate industry remains at the lower end of Los Angeles industries that engage with creatives, as that grows so will the economic variables and measurable metrics. Because artists enhance the design, production, and marketing of products they also increase productivity and earnings in the economy. Art and architecture are points of differentiation that continue to increase value.
Measuring the results of the physical installation can be as simple as using billboard metrics, which is essentially a glorified gallery piece. Foot traffic continues to be an effective way to measure ROI based on the numbers before and after the public art impact.
Urban Arts Project (UAP) understands the need to have an industry benchmark in quantifying and qualifying the value of public art. To realize significant ROI, it’s critical for the art, architecture, and landscape, to work together as one and start early in the development process. Then public art becomes the gift that keeps on giving in real estate projects.
As measuring the benefit and economic impact of public art continues to become more important the world’s first holistic and comprehensive research tool, Public Art 360, is being developed by UAP. Public Art 360 is an open-source platform where categories of impact from public art can be evaluated. Placemaking, society, culture, economy, sustainability, well-being, wisdom, and innovation are some of the categories that are being considered. Developers continue to explore the measurement of public art assets as illustrated by CBRE’s study on Public Art.
UAP’s examples of measurable value created by public art include:
Jackalope by Emily Floyd – Floyd was tasked with creating an iconic arrival moment for the new Victoria’s Morningstar Peninsula, Australia hotel and their brand which builds on the concept of alchemy. Early involvement allowed UAP and Floyd to be fully integrated into the brand development through architecture and landscape as well, which further strengthened the connection of the brand to the community it serves. The hotel won countless design awards and was fully booked on and off-peak pre-pandemic. Not only do hotel images portray the iconic sculpture Floyd created but it continues to be the visitor’s choice for photographed moments.
Speaking Willow by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer – This piece was designed to be the gateway entrance to the recently opened Planet Word Museum in Washington DC. Rafael is renowned for his interactive sculpture focusing on audience participation. Galvanized steel tubes are the willow branches that house hundreds of data cables that are attached to speakers and lighting that are activated when people pass by. The sound that plays from each branch includes quotes from famous speeches, poems, and other spoken words in different languages. The modern Speaking Willow compliments the historical renovation of the Planet Word Museum and has become an iconic gathering place and destination.
Almost 20 years after opening, Millennium Park in Chicago generates estimated annual revenue of $1.4 billion in direct visitor spending and an additional $78 million in tax revenue.
SPBID applies a holistic approach between economic success for businesses and pedestrianization. Positive economic impact is visible as walking paths are developed and businesses reap the benefits of the walkable downtown community. Every improved pedestrian experience equates to a positive impact on small businesses.
At the beginning of the pandemic sidewalks were key to help residents who live in apartments and condos, safely go out for air, while energizing the neighborhood, and promoting small businesses. Using removable chalk, games were painted on the sidewalks to create social media interactions with hopscotch, The Floor is Lava, and a big maze, to name a few. Contests ensued and gift cards to local businesses were won by residents.
Because the neighborhood is sometimes difficult to navigate for pedestrians, public art is used to help with wayfinding by creating landmarks to assist with circulation. Utility boxes were also used to help by being branded South Park and applying directory maps on the fixtures.
Factors to consider Public Art as a Value Proposition:
Written by Mickey Marraffino