Spartanburg named finalist for public art grant

From the Spartanburg Herald-Journal

Story by Daniel J. Gross

spartanburgnight300Spartanburg has been named one of 12 finalists for a $1 million grant for public art.

Los Angeles, Atlanta and Albuquerque, N.M. also made the list, whittled down from more than 260 initial submissions.

For Hub City, that funding would be used for five to seven temporary “light art” installations throughout the city. The initiative is to promote safety and vibrancy, coinciding with the annual National Night Out, which draws communities together to take a stand against crime.

Jennifer Evins, president of The Arts Partnership of Greater Spartanburg, spearheaded the application to Bloomberg Philanthropies, a charitable giving organization founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The $1 million grant is for public art projects that address civic topics.

“At a time when imaginative ideas are redefining every industry, cities increasingly realize how important it is to embrace and encourage creativity,” Bloomberg said in a statement released Thursday. “There was a great response to the challenge we issued, and we hope these projects spur new excitement about the ways public art can strengthen neighborhoods, inspire residents and fuel local economies.”

Evins said with Spartanburg as a finalist, she and others in the city will work closely to formulate a more in-depth grant application that focuses on how the project will be implemented and the benefits gleamed from it.

“To be in the national forefront with arts and public safety, it shows you how relevant the arts community is that it’s open to arts being a solution to things like crime prevention,” Evins said.

Evins selected Australia native and artist Erwin Redl to create the light installations for local public spaces. He is currently based out of Ohio, and his work can be seen in cities such as Charlotte, N.C., Toronto, New York, Pittsburgh and Istanbul.

The grant would bring the artist to Spartanburg to work with selected neighborhoods within the city on how each art installation would be presented. She said the residents would make the artist aware of specifics that make their neighborhood unique so that themes would be incorporated into the work.

Evins said adding light in public spaces reduces crime in dark areas and promotes safety.

“It’s projects like this that bring people out of their homes, and they meet each other,” Evins said. “It’s about citizens being actively involved in a project. It’s so much about community policing and part of public safety and crime prevention.”

She said the installations would be created beginning in July and unveiled during the National Night Out event in April 2016.

National Night Out historically has been a call to residents in cities and towns across the country to turn on their porch lights and take a stand against criminal activity.

Evins partnered with the Spartanburg Police Department and other city departments while crafting the grant application.

Deputy Chief Jennifer Kindall said she is thrilled that Spartanburg is a finalist.

“It’s just another opportunity to engage, and it’s a wonderful thing with the idea of having it tie in with National Night Out,” Kindall said. “Of course, you know, one of the main emphasis on National Night Out is encouraging residents to turn on porch lights as a symbol that they’re making a statement to take a stand against crime.”

The Bloomberg Philanthropies grant winner will be named in June. If Spartanburg is selected, the light art would remain on display for six to nine months, Evins said.

Will Rothschild, a spokesman for the city of Spartanburg, said the distinction as a finalist among other major cities has brought excitement.

“Bloomberg Philanthropies is a very big deal,” Rothschild said. “To be one of 12 finalists in a challenge that included a couple hundred applicants is impressive. We’re excited about it, and I hope that we can pull this thing off.”