How Public Art can Boost the Pride (and Resilience) of Your Neighborhood

Want to better your community but don’t know where to start? Enter It’s the Little Things: a weekly Strong Towns podcast that gives you the wisdom and encouragement you need to take the small yet powerful actions that can make your city or town stronger.

It’s the Little Things features Strong Towns Community Builder Jacob Moses in conversation with various guests who have taken action in their own places and in their own ways.

Strong Towns advocates for building financially resilient communities—and so initially, you may not consider public art to be an obvious strategy to advance that mission. And understandably so: in communities across the nation, you see public art used to spruce up a new, million dollar underpass or check a box on a big development project.

This art may catch your attention as you’re zooming towards the highway out of town, sure—but it doesn’t boost the resilience of the neighborhood.

At Strong Towns, we’ve documented several stories of communities who’ve embraced the relationship between public art and financial resilience. For example, we’ve seen communities use public art to prevent crime in a troubled neighborhood park and boost community engagement

That’s because these examples of public art include a few essential elements that those murals on the underpasses often miss: the neighborhoods’ input, perspective, and contribution—ensuring that the public art genuinely reflects the vision and values of the neighborhood. 

That’s why, in this episode, we have Greta McLain on the podcast: Artistic Director at GoodSpace Murals—a Minneapolis-based public art organization that promotes neighborhood-led, community development through public art. 

In neighborhoods across the Twin Cities, Greta and her team meet with major institutions and residents to develop designs that reflect the vision and values of each neighborhood. Then, once the neighborhood has chosen its design, GoodSpace Murals taps into the community to ensure everyone can contribute to the final product. 

The murals created by GoodSpace Murals make the neighborhoods in which they’re created more beautiful, of course. But as you’ll learn in this episode, they boost the financial resilience of these neighborhoods as well—giving residents a sense of pride and ownership as they plan future neighborhood-led investments.

In this episode, you’ll learn how you can use public art to build community in your own city or town, including how to create a tribe of public art advocates in your community, how to humble yourself as you share your partner with different neighborhoods, and how to turn stakeholders leery of public art into advocates.