In partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies

Bloomberg Philanthropies works to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people by focusing on five key areas: the arts, education, the environment, government innovation, and public health. We produced two independent productions in collaboration when their CityLab conference was held in Amsterdam.

Asphalt Art Initiative paints eye-catching murals and proves that art can save lives

The Asphalt Art Initiative is a program of Bloomberg Philanthropies Bloomberg Philanthropies works to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people by focusing on five key areas: the arts, education, the environment, government innovation, and public health. that helps cities use art and community engagement to improve street safety and revitalise public space. The initiative grants projects in the U.S. and Europe to develop pedestrian areas into safer and more welcoming places.

A beautiful underpass painting in Troy, New York. Source: Bloomberg Philanthropies

The streets are for people too

Streets are often designed primarily for cars, with less thought given to the experience of pedestrians. However, cities seeking to have thriving downtowns and neighborhoods have been increasingly focused on making their streets more walkable and bike able for their residents and visitors. The Asphalt Art Initiative employs an innovative tactic to make streets safer, more welcoming and easier to navigate: using art and design to actually change the shape of the streets. Check out the video above to see how it’s been done in previous projects.

Three goals
1.    Improve pedestrian safety
2.    Revitalise public space
3.    Engage local communities

Art work pays off

Recent data has shown the positive effects of asphalt art on street safety. Bloomberg Philanthropies and Sam Schwartz Consulting produced the Asphalt Art Safety Study, which analysed 22 projects across the United States and found that the rate of traffic crashes that involved pedestrians or cyclists went down by 50%.

An example of a safety-focused project is at a dangerous intersection in Kansas City, Missouri, where a team of artists and urban designers extended sidewalks and shortened crossing distances by installing art works. The project led to a dramatic reduction in traffic speeds and increase in neighborhood residents feeling safe while crossing the street.

“The percentage of people who felt safe when they were walking across this intersection went up from 23% to 63% after they installed the artwork.” – David Andersson, Bloomberg Philanthropies

The Asphalt Art project in Kansas City, Missouri. The sidewalks got extended and crossing distances got shortened. After installing the art work, the people felt more safe crossing the street. Source: Bloomberg Philanthropies

Revitalising the areas is also beneficial. Asphalt Art adds color to plazas, traffic barriers, underpasses and streets. The result: people are feeling the effects of the art and want to spend more time in their neighborhood.

Asphalt Art granted a project in Amsterdam to make a plaza, a greyish space, more vibrant. Now people are coming to the plaza to spend some more time there and be out and about in their own neighborhood. Source: Patrick Post / Bloomberg Philanthropies

The street art is typically designed and painted by artists and local residents working together. That’s exactly the goal of the initiative: to bring people together and create organic and fruitful community engagement.

Granting color to cities

Through the Asphalt Art Initiative, Bloomberg Philanthropies has provided grants to 42 projects across the U.S. and three pilot projects in Europe. Based on the success of these projects, Bloomberg Philanthropies expanded the Asphalt Art Initiative to 19 additional cities across Europe, which were announced at the Bloomberg City-Lab Conference in Amsterdam in October 2022.

“We announced 19 new cities are going to get Asphalt Art projects. We’re supporting them with $25,000 grants. They’re all cities across Europe, which is a nice expansion for us.” – David Andersson

London locals painting a street in downtown London. Source: Bloomberg Philanthropies

The goal is to make the European streets and public spaces safer and more welcoming for local communities. The special thing about public art and street art is, according to David:

“Anyone can experience public art  for free. Art can have many impacts; it’s making streets safer and art might even be saving lives.” – David Andersson 

In Saginaw, Michigan they brought some pieces of Egypt to the streets. Source: Bloomberg Philanthropies


Have a look at the Asphalt Art Initiative

Are you working on urban development or interested in street art for safety improvement? Check out the website for more information about the Asphalt Art Initiative, or to download the free Asphalt Art Guide available in multiple languages.

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