Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Public art as public participation?

Have you seen Candy Chang’s site? She’s doing some really interesting work on public art installations that spur public input on community development. In New Orleans and Fairbanks she’s put post-it notes and stickers with fill-in blanks on them on decaying or abandoned buildings. The stickers were placed on a blighted residence in New Orleans and said “Before I Die_________. “

In Fairbanks they installed a banner on the side of the tallest building in the city that said “Looking for love again.” At the street level Chang and her team installed a chalkboard that asked people to write down their memories of the building and their hopes for the building.

It is such an interesting way to approach public participation on land use and development questions. It certainly sparks a different type of response than a public meeting or government survey. It’s more friendly, inclusive and fun. Maybe this will become a new trend or method in public input.

I think it would do all of us (planners, politicians, developer and citizens) good to refresh the process of obtaining citizen input. Truly, the process can seem stale, adversarial and tedious. Maybe art installations or unique interactions would facilitate a different type of feeling and interaction between stakeholders that would lead to new ideas and a more fun, collaborative process. Well, we can hope, right?! What do you think about public participation and how it’s evolving with or without technology? Chang makes the argument that post-its and chalkboards are accessible for all and don’t intimidate the way some technology might.

All photos courtesy of Candy Chang and the Civic Center

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