Artists and City Planning

This past Sunday, the Hatch cohort was joined by Center Forward’s Heather Alhadeff and Allison Bustin.

MARTA Improvement rendering, Midtown Alliance
MARTA Improvement rendering, Midtown Alliance

Heather and Allison are city planners. Heather is the founder of Center Forward and her work history as a planner is quite extensive. Audrey Gámez, C4’s Education Manager, will recap this past Hatch session in a later blog, but I wanted to take a few moments to capture a brainstorm that came out of this lesson. Heather asked the artists if they could see themselves in the various stages of planning. Those stages include:

The Planning Process. Image by Center Forward
The Planning Process. Image by Center Forward

For posterity sake: I want to capture the brainstorm. Also, I hope that these ideas will one day come to fruition. Some are bigger than others but we need to dream big…and fund big. The community has an opportunity to really be more engaged in the city’s civic life. Artists can make that happen in Atlanta. Artists can help planners with:

Visioning & Goals

“Laugh Track” – a sound installation in MARTA that plays the laughs of people in the community – bringing joy to transportation
Gallery curation of unfinished art – artist discuss the art process – “demystify” the artistic process
Clean neighborhoods – theatre, murals, performance art that excites residents (see opera example below)
Public museum – community space – connecting neighborhoods

Data Collection

Mobile Town Hall with artists/create asset map for the community
Sketch Up and Google Maps layered on asset map
City-wide or neighborhood wide art geo-cache
Snapchat feeds of citizens at community gatherings

Assessment of Conditions

Street Curators – Give an artist team to fill with art (with community members)
Tour map for residents to discover art – residents could collect info about street conditions between art points
Graphic novel presentation of plans
Waze for sidewalks – people input info about sidewalk issues

Public & Client Approval
Mobile Town Hall – Artists do the asking using art
A street potluck with art
Food, Not Bombs Potluck (family dinning for the whole community)
Community gift trading, gifts can reaffirm the project goals
Artist created brochure that uses images to convey data findings, etc.
Public meetings announced by art in MARTA
Babysitters at community meetings – arts & crafts with kids
Speed meet & greets  with elected officials (2 minutes tops to voice concerns)


Play Me, I’m Yours – Street Pianos 
Mobil Shower – Art piece incorporated
Artists interacting with kids, seniors, and other riders at MARTA stations. They capture stories.
People as airline-like stewards on MARTA: hand out towelettes, etc.
Black Feminist Opera like the one in NOLA – residents made sure their neighborhoods were clean when they knew the opera would be there
Public facing artist database that connects the public to individual artist’s works with street map
Potholes covered with mosaic tiles
Curate a pothole
Theatre babysitting night

Of course, these ideas may be moved from category to category. The visioning & goals phases could simply utilize the imagination of artists to problem solve. There are so many possibilities. Cities in other states are starting to recognize the contribution artists can make to the planning process. My hope is that Atlanta will also lead in this area.


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