The Arts

Harnessing the Power of the Arts to Improve Communities

The Arts program supports artists, invests in cultural organizations, and improves audience experience in an effort to strengthen the creative landscape that is critical to the social and economic vibrancy of cities. Through initiatives that include capacity-building for small and mid-sized cultural institutions, increasing access through the use of digital technology, and facilitating collaborations between artists and local governments to address civic issues, Bloomberg Philanthropies works to strengthen the arts and improve the quality of life in cities across the globe.

Supporting Innovative Public Art Projects

Public Art Challenge

Breathing Lights, the winning project from New York State's Capital Region, started a broader community conversation around vacant buildings in Albany, Schenectady, and Troy.

Bloomberg Philanthropies works to showcase the potential of artists to act as civic leaders, drawing attention to and encouraging dialogue around pressing problems. The Public Art Challenge, founded to further this work, supports temporary public art projects that engage communities and enrich the quality of life in cities. After launching a call for mayors to submit proposals in partnership with artists, four winners were selected in 2015 for their innovative approaches to using public art to address local challenges. The winning teams from Los Angeles, California; Gary, Indiana; Spartanburg, South Carolina; and Albany, Schenectady, and Troy, New York (a collaborative project), each received $1 million in funding to bring their ideas to life. Their projects, which all opened in 2016, spurred civic leaders and residents, as well as local nonprofits and businesses, to work together to advance solutions to critical urban challenges such as abandoned buildings, environmental sustainability, community-police relations, and creative sector economic development.

“I believe Breathing Lights will leave an indelible mark on the Capital Region, and I think we have already felt the effects of this stirring arts project. I am inspired by the possibilities that remain as Breathing Lights goes dark.”
Kathy Sheehan
Mayor, Albany, New York

Strengthening 260 U.S. Cultural Institutions

Arts Innovation and Management

The Dallas Black Dance Theatre, an Arts Innovation and Management participant, has performed across the globe in 31 states, 14 countries, and 5 continents. Credit: The Dallas Dance Project/The Dallas Black Dance Theatre

Small and mid-sized cultural institutions are critical for the arts to thrive in any community. These organizations engage residents, build community, promote social cohesion, and contribute to a city’s economy and identity. Bloomberg Philanthropies is helping to strengthen 260 U.S. cultural organizations in six cities through financial support as well as management training.

First tested in New York City from 2011–2013, the program now supports cultural organizations in Boston, Massachusetts; Chicago, Illinois; Dallas, Texas; Detroit, Michigan; and Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. These small and mid-sized groups receive support for programming and guidance to enhance their fund-raising, audience development, and marketing. Building collaborative networks of institutions in each city, the program encompasses a diverse range of cultural nonprofits that present a wide variety of artistic expression.

cultural organizations around the world supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies in 2016

Grantee Women's Audio Mission works to train 1,200 participants each year in creative technology studies at the only professional recording studio in the world built and run entirely by women. Credit: Jared Swanson/Women's Audio Mission

Enhancing the Visitor Experience Through Technology

Bloomberg Connects

The Brooklyn Museum ASK App, supported by Bloomberg Connects, reimagines the visitor experience by letting users ask questions, get information, and share insights—in real time—with educators and experts.

Through interactive touch screens, rooms with immersive installations, and specially designed apps, Bloomberg Connects grantees are expanding the role that technology plays in advancing the missions of cultural institutions, as well as promoting collaboration among senior leadership, curators, and education, development, marketing, and operations departments—all in the service of improving the visitor experience. In 2016, the American Museum of Natural History launched its upgraded Bloomberg Connects–supported “Explorer” app, which enables visitors to customize their experience by using augmented reality, for example, to choose a bear or a dinosaur to act as their guide to the museum. Through the app on their smartphones, visitors engage with exhibits in new, interactive ways. The app also provides museum information, directions, and the option to buy tickets. Making art and exhibits more accessible through digital technology, Bloomberg Connects works with 16 major cultural institutions worldwide

Participating museums and institutions include:

  • American Museum of Natural History
  • The Art Institute of Chicago
  • Brooklyn Museum
  • Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
  • Gardens by the Bay
  • The Jewish Museum
  • Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • The Metropolitan Opera
  • The Museum of Modern Art
  • The New York Botanical Garden
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  • Science Museum, London
  • Serpentine Galleries
  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Tate

20.7 million
Bloomberg Connects users since 2013

The Arts

A Bloomberg Philanthropies Moment

Visitors to the Arab American National Museum engage with programming that promotes the understanding and exploration of the Arab-American experience, including exhibits like the one pictured above, What We Carried: Fragments from the Cradle of Civilization. Credit: Houssam Mchaiemch/AANM

Arab American National Museum
June 5, 2016

The Arab American National Museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate, is the first and only museum in the United States devoted to Arab-American history and culture. It not only documents the experience of immigrants and their descendants from different countries and different faith backgrounds, it also serves as a gathering place for Arab Americans and as a bridge to other communities.

The museum’s participation over the past two years in the Detroit, Michigan cohort of the Arts Innovation and Management (AIM) program, a nonprofit management training course accompanied by financial support for 260 small and mid-sized U.S. cultural institutions, began as it was preparing to celebrate its tenth anniversary. Working with Bloomberg Philanthropies and its partners gave the museum’s director, Devon Akmon, the resources and mentorship that helped him and his staff build skills and develop a strategic plan for the future.

“AIM was great in that it challenged us as an institution to think broadly about everything from strategy to programmatic goals to how we communicate with our audiences and supporters in big and bold new ways.”
Devon Akmon
Director, Arab American National Museum

Top photo: Children play under Mobile Suspension, part of the Public Art Challenge–winning project Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light. Artist Erwin Redl collaborated with the city’s police and fire departments and neighborhood associations to design and develop nine light installations that transform open spaces and create safer, more vibrant neighborhoods.