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Today’s post is by contributing writer Kirby Hoyt:

Back in March 2012, I penned an article for this site entitled Urban Appropriation through Art. Remember that one? Right, I thought as much. Anyway, I keep thinking about the urban condition of Phoenix and how even the small things can promote positive change. Phoenix has a condition of transitory land use wherein something like 40% of the downtown is vacant offers so many possibilities for a variety of ephemeral uses. The one I propose would become a sustainable model for Phoenix.

Using art as a method of tactical urbanism could provide on-going social, environmental, and economic benefits to the city. To begin with, providing venues for artists offers great societal benefits to both artist and viewer. At the very least, an unconscious non-verbal communication is established between the two and it provides the opportunity for actual discussions. In this way, artists can use their media as a way of conveying a message to the public. Real issues concerning our city can be uncovered and discovered through art.

Second, the ability for the artists to publicly show their work offers the potential for the sale of their work, if they desire. Being able to foster a strong artist community by supporting them through the sale of their work is one way of making any city a more identifiable place.

Art is also a way a city can promote tourism. Just look at Venice, Italy. I’ll be traveling there in September for my fourth Venice Biennale (as a viewer of course). There is such an opportunity for Phoenix to embrace art (and not the cowboy art of Scottsdale) that it could become a winter haven for artists and collectors (think Art Basel Miami).

Lastly, the environmental element comes through by way of urban beautification. Small, medium, large and extra-large pieces of the downtown can become wayfinding devices, useable urban elements such as site furnishings, and topics of discussion. Art can be three-dimensional sculpture placed almost anywhere (private or public with permission) or two-dimensional such as billboards, video projections and murals on walls.

The City of Phoenix, through the Office of Arts and Culture, has been dedicated to making some of this happen by funding small projects through grants they have obtained from outside sources. It’s time we support this and find the means and methods to enhance it, to grow it into a City identity piece, without the taxpayers having to fund it. Businesses and corporations located downtown would benefit from the civic pride that comes with the arts. Let’s figure out how to do this.

Photo Credit: An exhibition at the Venice Biennale. Photo by the author.

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