T4America Blog

News, press releases and other updates

Lessons learned from T4America’s Cultural Corridor Consortium

Yesterday, representatives from Dothan (AL), Indianapolis, and Los Angeles shared how local leaders, artists, city officials, and arts administrators in their communities are using the arts and creative practices to address pressing transportation challenges. Catch up with a recording of the full webinar here.

A rendering of a mural that celebrates the culture, identity, and strength of Hyde Park’s residents amidst rapid development and construction in the Hyde Park neighborhood. Photo courtesy of LA Commons.

Arts and culture can extend far beyond the performance or physical structures we typically recognize as art. These three cities in Alabama, California, and Indiana are engaging with community members, building local capacity for civic engagement, and helping build bridges of collaboration by using arts and culture in transportation projects.

On a webinar yesterday we heard from leaders in these communities who are pioneering arts & culture projects through what we call the Cultural Corridor Consortium, generously funded by The Kresge Foundation. It’s been over a year since T4America kicked off this round of projects, and it’s incredible to hear about the progress that’s been made since.

Catch up with yesterday’s webinar below and learn about how arts and culture are contributing to producing transportation projects that better serve communities in diverse contexts across the U.S.

Recap of Q & A: 

Question: Did you consider moving the grocery store across I-84 so that people wouldn’t have to go outside of their neighborhood and across the highway?

Bob Wilkerson: I agree that it would be a good thing to have a grocery store within the fabric of the neighborhood. However, the grocery store owner has existed in its present location for many years and also serves an equally sizeable neighborhood on the southern extent of Highway 84 East. To your point, there were several small grocery markets located in the subject area during the past that provided an easily walkable distance for much of the neighborhood. Our hope is that through the City’s revitalization and renewal initiatives, such as the former Howell School being transformed into a senior housing community, we can entice and incentivize entrepreneurs to bring goods and services closer to our historic core neighborhoods.

Question: What is the status of FHA funding for aesthetic amenities? 

Julia Muney Moore: I can say that for Indianapolis, we were very sensitive to the restrictions of the FAST Act and structured our whole project around them. We have been very careful to “brand” the projects not as IndyGo’s (because the Red Line Rapid Transit construction is largely federally funded and falls under the restrictions), but as Transit Drives Indy and the Arts Council’s project, so as not to make it seem that these projects were funded by the same source and in the same project as the Red Line itself. We also deliberately made the projects temporary for the same reason. We want to do some permanent work, but we have to wait until the Red Line is built out and running, and the federally funded project is closed out, before we start doing anything.

Question: [For LA:] How were you able to get people to engage with the project, given the conflict between the community and the planning process for the rail line?

Zipporah Yamamoto: For this project, we decided to take one big challenge and go deep. There was a mixed reception for the new rail line in this specific community, with gentrification, a rapid rate of change, and a concern about the potential loss of an established sense of place being a key concern among many residents. Metro has special programs that offer assistance to local businesses through technical training and an extensive marketing program to encourage people to frequent local businesses, restaurants and events during construction – all free to participants – and the agency has distributed millions of dollars in grants to mom and pop businesses that have been impacted by construction. There are also local hire and job training programs associated with the project that have brought many opportunities to the area. However, there are many long time residents that do not own a business and are not looking for work. Our project with Transportation for America added another tool to the toolbox of opportunities for engagement, using arts and culture to directly address the core issues around neighborhood change that were vocalized by residents, by capturing stories from the existing community and using those stories as source material to design a mural with a strong visual presence that will be visible from the platform.
The Heart of Hyde Park mural project was led by LA Commons, a community based arts organization with deep roots in the area, with Metro as a collaborator. A strong desire to be heard and acknowledged had been expressed, and we built this into the framework of the project. A group of involved community members acted as an advisory committee and provided input throughout the project, including developing the format and selecting the catering for a community kickoff event. The kickoff involved a story summit, where folks were invited to share their stories about Hyde Park with high school students, who took notes and brought the stories back to a collaborative studio to use as source material for mural imagery development. Approximately 75 community members attended the story summit and many expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to add their personal recollections as part of the development of a new community landmark.
Assaata Umoja, an active and vocal community member, was hired to serve as the youth mentor for the project. She brought in special speakers and personally shared a wealth of knowledge about the history of the community with the students who participated in the project. Moses Ball was hired as the lead artist and mentored Dezmond Crockett, a more emerging artist from the immediate area. The mural imagery was developed by Moses, and is informed by the collected stories of community members and drawings by 14 youth artists. Several prominent community members, including Assaata, are featured in the mural, and Assaata’s headshot for this webinar is actually a section of the mural design. The voice of the community has been heavily present throughout the development of the design, and a public community meeting was held at a local library to share the design and solicit feedback. After an extensive design development process we are moving into the painting phase, which will include a community painting day. The resulting mural design is much more than a decorative element, it is a strong, community informed visual statement about place, history and vitality.
For the Heart of Hyde Park project, establishing a community advisory committee and bringing on local residents to spearhead elements of the project helped establish a sense of community ownership that drew participants into the project. Transportation challenges around gentrification and rapid neighborhood change are not unique to Hyde Park, and while these conversations are not easy, they are important. Creative placekeeping led by community arts organizations in collaboration with public agencies can be a powerful tool to facilitate discussion and provide opportunities for communities to lead the development of a new neighborhood asset, in our case a mural, that asserts a community presence and marks place in a significant way.