Artists Addressing COVID-Related Transportation Challenges Nationwide
In spring 2020, after transportation agencies made quick adjustments to address challenges presented by the pandemic, Smart Growth America (SGA) imagined there could be a way for artists to augment safety efforts; these artist interventions would be creative, effective, and culturally relevant ways to meet the needs of the community members utilizing public transportation systems. When SGA put out a call for different jurisdictions to apply to partner with artists, nearly 200 different agencies from across the country raised their hands. SGA called on Forecast to facilitate artist selection for this program—Arts & Transportation Rapid Response (A&TRR)—pairing selected agencies with artists to address COVID-related transit challenges and longstanding transportation inequities. Artist and agency teams were announced in early September 2020. As shown in the initiative title, these incredible projects turned around rapidly, wrapping in a matter of weeks.
Forecast’s Role: Artist Selection
Forecast expands access to tools, resources, opportunities, and funding for artists to work in public, create partnerships, and advance their public art careers. We also facilitate open, equitable processes to help others find, select, curate, fund and commission artists with an emphasis on access for artists of color, indigenous artists, and groups that are traditionally excluded.
Once agency finalists were selected, Forecast connected agencies with artists and provided training for both so they could learn how to work together. Our team curated artists for each awarded city , helped work through budgets and work plans, and developed the artist/agency training.
Our team spent time with the agencies to articulate the vision and goals for each project, and to understand the type of artistic work or skills that would benefit the project. In each location where A&TRR projects would be taking place, we connected with arts and culture organizations and individuals to learn more about the location context, what might resonate with community members, and if there were any artists in the area that would be a great fit for the project. We held conversations with various artists in each location to talk about the projects and how each artist’s philosophy aligned with project goals. Then, we facilitated meetings between the artists and agencies, and created a program that touched on philosophies and theories behind public art. We also created a mentorship opportunity through the initiative, assisted artists with budgeting and approach to the project, and provided guidance and technical assistance on facilitating design decisions.
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Artists + Agencies, Round 1
Agencies selected had a variety of experiences working with artists, and ranged from Departments of Transportation to public transit agencies, and a regional community foundation. Our team took this, and the goals of the project into consideration when pairing artists and agencies.
Artist | Tosha Stimage
Agency | San Francisco, CA Bay Area Rapid Transit
Stimage worked with Bay Area Rapid Transit to pilot a community-informed intervention strategy to deconstruct racial prejudices worsened by COVID-19, and to normalize the culture of wearing a mask on transit.
Tosha Stimage b.1982 is an artist living and working in Berkeley, CA. Stimage holds a BFA from the Columbus College of Art & Design and an MFA from California College of the Arts. She is a recipient of numerous awards and residencies including; The Murphy Cadogan Contemporary Art Award, The Toby Devan Lewis Award, Svane Family Foundation Grant, Facebook Artist in Residence, AICAD Teaching Fellow, Real Time and Space Artist in Residence, and YBCA Political Power Fellow.
Artist | Jonathan Brumfield
Agency | The Department of Transportation in Oakland, CA
Brumfield worked together with the department to design a new Oakland Slow Streets “look and feel,” piloting a solution for more aesthetically pleasing, sturdy barricades that better reflect East Oakland culture, and still support safe distancing while traveling and exercising during the pandemic.
Jonathan Brumfield graduated from San Francisco State University with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice in 2000. Since then Jonathan’s professional trajectory has been consistently focused on urban youth, from ages 12 -21 years of age, providing intense case management services and facilitating urban arts workshops and classes in community and school settings reaching the most disengaged students. Jonathan is an accomplished artist, in custom clothing, logo & tattoo designs; mural painting with aerosol; Hip Hop calligraphy; airbrushing; and illustration but the list goes on. Being an aerosol writer since a youth in 1989, Jonathan has used his art form in many ways from destructive to constructive. His educational experienced had its trials and tribulations just like his students, which makes him very relatable to the young people while his tour of duty in the Urban Art world has made him very reputable amongst the youth as well. He has been a resident artist at the African American Complex in San Francisco, and the resident artist at several nonprofits in Oakland, and a global artist as well. Since 2005, Jonathan has worked at Safe Passages as an Urban Arts Instructor, case manager, and program manager. The success of his work has propelled Safe Passages to develop the Get Active Program to increase the organization’s capacity to effectively engage the hardest to reach students, in their learning process with an emphasis on men and boys; and to expand Jonathan’s reach in terms of training and mentoring others to carry the baton of social justice and cultural empowerment with the youth. Jonathan received his master’s in Ethnic Studies with an Africana Studies emphasis from San Francisco State in 2015. He currently teaches through the dual enrollment process for Peralta at several Oakland Unified School District sites. He has also taken his work across the globe to Europe, the Americas, and West Africa where he integrates art and social justice practices that the young people can find their voice in. He has also been a leading figure within Oakland’s spray can art community as one who promotes Hip Hop Restorative Justice, giving back to the community through the visual art form by going over the blighted buildings with murals that represent the community.
Artist | Ashley Hairston Doughty
Agency | the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada
Hairston Doughty and the commission designed and implemented art and signage to effectively educate the public about social distancing and safe transit riding practices at RTC’s main transit hub in Las Vegas.
Ashley Hairston Doughty is a visual storyteller, explaining personal experiences through verbal and visual language. Much of her practice deals with socio-economic, racial, and gender-based issues, particularly those relating to cultural misconceptions and the development of personal identity. Doughty’s distinctive perspective has grown through residing in nine different cities throughout her lifetime, mostly in the southeastern, midwestern, and southwestern United States. Although trained as a graphic designer, Doughty’s artwork often crosses multiple media, including typography, illustration, writing, fiber and materials, and book arts. She shares and encourages such art-making as an Assistant Professor of Art at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and through her design studio, Design Kettle. Doughty’s work is included in the Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection in Chicago and has received awards from the Caxton Club, the College Book Arts Association and Arion Press.
Artist | Naomi RaMona Schliesman
Agency | West Central Initiative (WCI) in MN
Schliesman and WCI worked together to design creative, safe ways to engage community during COVID-10 and better inform their Safe Routes to School planning.
Naomi RaMona Schliesman is a nationally known visual artist that lives in Minnesota, and is an active advocate for the arts. She has her BFA with an emphasis in sculpture from Minnesota State University Moorhead, and an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Schliesman has received a Fellowship from Ragdale and Kimmel Hardening Nelson Center for the Arts, was awarded 2nd place for Miami University Young Sculptors Competition for William and Dorothy Yeck Award, and was a LEAP finalist for the Society of Contemporary Craft Award. She has traveled abroad to Italy, Scotland, Ireland, France, United Kingdom, Netherlands and Belize to study art and has done artist residencies at Vermont Studio Center, Kimmel Hardening Nelson Center for the Arts, Ragadale, The Traveling Museum and Hospitalfield Arts. Schliesman currently serves on the Public Arts Commission for The City of Fergus Falls, and continues to collaborate with artists and organizations nationwide and exhibits her artwork nationally.
Artist | Ndubisi Okoye
Agency | the Detroit, MI Department of Public Works
Okoye and the department worked together to implement creative wayfinding to help bridge the first- and last-mile gaps between bus stops and the city’s recreation centers that are providing crucial resources and services during COVID-19.
Ndubisi Okoye is a multidisciplinary artist with a passion for art and design that tells a story. Through his drawings and murals, he creates unique stories to motivate, represent, and inspire people throughout the African Diaspora. Okoye’s combinations of typography, geometric shapes, vibrant color palettes, and tribal patterns represent an improvised rhythm throughout his work that is aimed at uplifting and motivating the viewer. He draws inspiration from many areas of his life, including anime, movies, music, poetry, and graphic design. He creates art to reflect the African Diaspora, his faith in God in the presence of indifference, and call attention to political issues. He wants to show the power, beauty, and complexity of blackness.
Okoye graduated from College for Creative Studies in 2015 with a B.F.A in Advertising Design. He has worked as an Art Director for many advertising agencies working for clients such as General Motors, Chevrolet, Ram, Chrysler, Dodge, Camaro. Simultaneously, He has also done murals for Universal Music Group, Carolina Panthers, Mercedes Benz, GM, and HGTV. In both commercial Advertising and Fine Arts, he continuously finds ways to enjoy and excel at both in Detroit, Michigan.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ROUND 1 PROJECTS IN THE SECOND EDITION OF FORECAST’S DIGITAL PUBLICATION, FORWARD
FORWARD, Forecast’s new digital publication and conversation series, highlights how artists are partnering with cities, institutions and communities to courageously tackle the vital issues of our time. Released in February, 2021, the second issue dives deeper into these five projects and other ideas around public art and transportation. Guest Editor Ben Stone, SGA’s Director of Arts and Culture, has written extensively about the intersection of art and transportation and led the Arts & Transportation Rapid Response initiative. Stone leads the organization’s broad efforts to help communities across the country better integrate arts, culture, and creative placemaking into neighborhood revitalization, equitable development, and transportation planning efforts. As Guest Editor, along with other tasks, Ben identified art projects in transportation that readers of FORWARD—who are civic, institutional, and community leaders—can learn from and be inspired by. These selected projects highlight where artists have partnered with community stakeholders to address transportation challenges related to COVID-19 (with the A&TRR projects), as well as Construction Mitigation, Making Streets Safer, Respecting Local Ownership, and Bringing Creativity to Departments of Transportation.
Artists + Agencies, Round 2
In November 2020, a call went out for agency applications to apply for the second round. While some projects from the initial phase addressed transit, round two will focus exclusively on public transportation. The process began in February 2021 to match selected agencies with an artist who will work with the agency over the next several months on their proposed project. As with the first round, Forecast continued facilitating the pairing of artists with agencies. Participating artists will receive up to $8,500 to support their time and project materials, as well as a series of training sessions to prepare them to work with the transit agencies. Selected artists were announced on March 30, 2021.
Artist | Franco Bejarano
Agency | Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) and HOPE Atlanta
Location | Atlanta, GA
Franco Bejarano will work with Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) and HOPE Atlanta in Atlanta, GA to develop a project that thoughtfully addresses MARTA’s unsheltered ridership during the pandemic.
Franco Bejarano is an artist and social worker in Atlanta, GA. He received his MSW from UGA in 2016 and currently works in the field of homeless services. Franco uses his artwork as interventions tackling societal issues and mental health through the mediums of portraiture, children’s books, and art therapy. His work is rooted in the belief that the therapeutic and impactful powers art has on individuals and communities lies in not just the finished product, but the process, the engagement, and the message it can transmit. Since 2017, Franco has been creating life-size portraits of people experiencing homelessness with whom he has formed strong personal relationships throughout their journey in housing them. In 2021 he was awarded a proclamation by Atlanta City Council for his housing work.
The artist says, “This series of work is informed by personal relationships I have established working as a homeless outreach worker in Atlanta since 2017. These drawings originally began as my effort to capture and expand the moment of my clients transitioning from homelessness to housing. In this recent expansion of the work, I collaborated with MARTA HOPE to include familiar faces of people they serve and who experience homelessness near MARTA’s rail network – a demographic that saw an upsurge during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Artist | Janel Young
Agency | Port Authority of Allegheny County
Location | Pittsburgh, PA
Janel Young will work with the Port Authority of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, PA to develop innovative ways to better use space at some of its crowded bus stops and rail stations.
Janel Young is a Pittsburgh-raised artist who further developed her work in New York City over the course of five years, focusing on murals, abstract, and landscape works. Her style contains blending, bright colors, and geometric inspiration. She found a love for painting after being selected as part of a mural painting team in seventh grade and later completed an International Baccalaureate art program in 2009. She moved to New York in 2013 after graduating from Penn State University (B.S. Marketing and International Studies) and held onto art for self-therapy, expression, and activism. She returned to her hometown in 2019 to complete Pittsburgh’s first art basketball court: The Home Court Advantage Project. Janel’s artwork has been recognized locally and internationally, including being awarded a proclamation by the City of Pittsburgh, within AfroPunk.com, The Apollo Theatre, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Ebony Magazine, at the 2020 U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, Verizon Media, Yahoo.com, and RAW Artists shows in New York City and Sydney, Australia.
The artist says, “Earlier this year Port Authority commissioned me through Smart Growth America’s COVID-response art initiative to create a bus stop street mural at their busiest Downtown location. … This is “Respect The Space.” CDC guidance keeps changing, but one thing should remain the same: our respect for each others’ personal space. And y’all know I love a good galaxy painting so the play on “space” was very fun for me! Before starting the design, I went through the EJGP (Equitable + Just Greater Pittsburgh) Network to interview transit riders + workers about their commute experience during the pandemic. According to the survey, people wanted something: colorful, uplifting, complex to make their wait go by quicker. So, I made the work interactive by adding several scannable QR codes throughout the art to give people the chance to have different experiences during their commutes. Riders can scan to: listen to a free meditative playlist, watch a video about the project on YouTube, browse my Instagram (shameless plug).”
Watch Janel Young’s YouTube video to see the “Makings of Respect the Space.”
Artist | Rochelle Shicoff
Agency | Quaboag Valley Community Development Corporation
Location | Ware, MA
Rochelle Shicoff will work with Quaboag Valley Community Development Corporation in Ware, MA to help promote a new fixed-route service & communicate safety messages to keep riders & drivers safe.
Rochelle Shicoff is an artist whose paintings have been exhibited nationally and internationally. In 1980 she was the recipient of the Rome Prize Fellowship in Painting and spent a year painting in Rome, Italy and traveling throughout Europe and the Middle East. Among her awards are Visiting Artist residencies, community grants, and nominations for the Fulbright, and American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2001 she co-authored The Mural Book: A Practical Guide for Educators published by Crystal Productions which was specifically written for K-12 educators. Her public art murals can be seen in NYC, Massachusetts, Florida, Georgia, and Mexico. Her murals have been awarded an Art in Action Grant, The Women Waging Peace Award, Youth Friends Award, NYC Dept of Ed., NY State Council on the Arts, and MA Council for the Arts. She is a member of Gallery A3/Amherst, Quabbin Art Association/Belchertown, and Artmakers, Inc./ NYC.
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