Bloomberg Philanthropies recently invited US cities to apply for its Asphalt Art Initiative grants, which will provide up to $25,000 each for projects that use art and design to improve street safety, revitalize public spaces, and engage residents of their communities.

This program, announced at the Bloomberg CityLab 2021 global cities summit, aims to continue work done to improve pedestrian safety and revitalize New York City streets during Michael Bloomberg’s tenure as Mayor from 2002-2013 and the work of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ pro bono consulting arm Bloomberg Associates.

“Asphalt Art Projects can help cities rebuild from the pandemic by reinvigorating streets and making them safer, while also lifting spirits,” said Michael Bloomberg. “As we’ve seen through our work in cities around the world, vibrant public artwork and smarter street design can inspire residents, build relationships between artists and the community, and help cities recover stronger than before.”

The grant program is designed not just to create vibrant new public spaces but also to build city capacity for working with artists and community groups on projects involving transportation infrastructure. The initiative responds to the growing number of cities around the world embracing art as an effective and relatively low-cost strategy to activate their streets, with interventions on plazas and pavements, crosswalks and intersections and other transportation infrastructure.

The closing date for applications is 30 April, 2021. Up to 20 winning cities will be announced in the Autumn and all selected projects will be installed within a year.

This next phase comes as the first round of grantees, announced in June 2020, continue to roll out projects. Collectively they have so far transformed 20,000 square feet of streetscape with artwork and engaged nearly 1,000 residents and 37 artists in the design and installation process.

And in Kansas City’s redesign of a problematic intersection, the project also reduced overall vehicle speeds by 45 percent, shortened pedestrian crossing distances by 50 percent, and increased the number of pedestrians who feel safe crossing the intersection by 40 percent.

“Adapting our cities post-pandemic isn’t just a question of engineering or epidemiology, but of imagination. By bringing light, colour and creativity to blacktop, asphalt art projects can bring people together after so much time apart and breathe new life into our cities and our streets,” said Janette Sadik-Khan, Principal for Transportation at Bloomberg Associates and former commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation.

The first round of the Asphalt Art Initiative grant coincided with the publication of the Asphalt Art Guide, with case studies and best practices from cities around the world. The Guide, which has been accessed more than 4,500 times by governments and other practitioners in 83 countries, is free for download at AsphaltArt.bloomberg.org.