Tag Archives: public art

Alternatives to 311: a citizen-led movement for change

311 is a toll-free, non-emergency phone number that people in many cities can call to get information about municipal services (like trash collection), make complaints (like a pothole), or report urgent problems (like a downed power line). Even in cities where a number other than “311” is used, 311 is the most recognized name for this type of phone system. In many places, 311 is now also available as a smartphone app.

Residents are the natural eyes and ears of their neighborhoods, so any system that amplifies their voices straight to city hall gets a gold star from ioby. But what about those residents who want to do more than make a 30-second call to 311 when they notice something amiss on their block? What can neighbors do when they decide it’s not enough to make a report—they also need to take some action?

We’re proud to introduce you to three ioby Leaders who saw opportunities for improvement where they live, and who didn’t wait for someone else (even the government) to step in. While their projects are quite different in nature, they all used ioby’s crowdfunding platform to raise the money needed to make them happen.

Continue reading Alternatives to 311: a citizen-led movement for change

AWESOME PROJECT: A Louisville mural to take you back in time

If you’ve ever been involved in a public mural project, then you know how deceptively simple this booming genre of community activism can seem, to the uninitiated. Hire an artist, slap it on, make it pretty… right?

Wrong! Community murals are very, very labor-intensive – even if a professional artist is on the team. From fundraising, to power-washing the wall, to the complexities of designing and mapping such a large image, to scaffolding, to selecting climate-appropriate paint, to coating it all with UV protection at the end, to lighting installation, to protecting the work from graffiti, this kind of job is no cakewalk. But it’s worth it. Murals bring people together. Neighbors stop and look, and wind up chatting. Mural helpers and contributors across the country burst with pride at the sight of their work.


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Three Points for history

Just ask Jennifer Chappell, who in her free time works tirelessly on her community council and as a Creator with Three Points Beautification, in Louisville. She’s spearheading an ioby campaign that’s raising money right now to cover a portion of costs for a new mural on a run-down commercial building on Goss Avenue, in Louisville’s Three Points area, where she lives.

“This is a building that most people just look over,” says Chappell, “or if they do notice it, it’s just absolutely ugly. A lot of people think that it’s actually an abandoned building, or don’t know what’s in it. So it’s exciting for us to show what’s in the neighborhood, and to say: this is who your neighbors are.”

The mural’s  concept is absolutely fascinating: it’s going to visually represent the Louisville Cotton Mill and Glassner’s Bakery – tenants of the building generations ago – as well as Ackerman Millworks, who are the current building tenants. It’ll be done by artist Stephen Paulovich, and in such a way that if you stand out front, it’ll look as if the building has been spliced down the center, so that you can peer right in to see women spinning cotton, men working wood lathes, and bakers kneading bread. On another side will be a reproduction of an old photograph of a Glassner’s Bakery truck.

“We’re seeing a lot of growth right now,” says Chappell. “Nine new restaurants in the area, a lot of businesses coming in, home prices skyrocketing. We’re seeing a lot of positive growth. A lot more people are coming to community meetings. But as we make these leaps and bounds into our future, we want to preserve the past.”


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Warning: community action may be highly addictive

This isn’t Chappell’s first rodeo – she and her team already have one other mural up in the area, as well as a community map of three neighborhoods that make up Three Points, a community bulletin board, a bench, a trash can, and some no littering signs. They’ve had sidewalks repaved, done $2,000 worth of landscaping, and planted 4 trees. “It’s a project that continues to grow and grow and grow,” says Chappell, who doesn’t seem to be able to quit. “My heart gets a little warmer if I see someone sitting on the bench. I get really excited over a full trashcan. It’s the little things. I get really excited when someone posts a flier on the bulletin board. It could be about those silly belly wraps that people do – lose 20 pounds with a wrap! That’s ridiculous, but I’m so glad someone took time out of their day to put something on the board!”

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Maybe Chappell’s tirelessness comes from seeing so clearly what a difference her work is making. Passersby often roll down their windows and shout “thank you!,” if workers happen to be on the site. “It’s so heartwarming,” says Chappell, who actually cried the first time she sat down in the newly installed bench, and who’s also noticed that neighbors have been taking it upon themselves to quietly contribute, when no one is looking. Recently, someone went and repainted an old fire hydrant in the area; now it’s a nice, bright red again. Someone else staked a tree that had been bumped by a car. Another person did some quiet weed-management.

These selfless neighbors, like Chappell herself, aren’t getting paid for it. They’re not in it for the glory. They just feel compelled to give a little, make things a little nicer. Neighborhood investment breeding neighborhood investment.

To donate to the mural, visit the campaign page here. More than $3,000 has already been raised, with 26 days left to raise the remaining $2,135. A $20 donation gets your name on the mural, and $200 or more gets your glowing FACE up there!


Feeling inspired? Want to take action in YOUR neighborhood? If you have awesome ideas about how to make your town greener, safer, and more fun, let us help! Tell us your awesome idea right here. We’d love to help you get started today.

Pssst…. In OTHER ioby news: Want to learn from the pros about how to bring healthy cooking into the classroom? Check out last week’s Learn From A Leader blog, and get tips on designing curriculum, getting equipment, and teaching good food habits. Give it a read, and you’ll be ready to start!


Neighbors making neighborhoods: Khara and NJ Woods

ioby is more than just a crowdfunding platform: we’re a team   of  individuals who are passionate about  helping neighbors make their neighborhoods safer, greener, more livable and more fun.  We love hearing from ioby Leaders about  their experiences planning, funding and implementing a project with us. We think by sharing  these experiences,  complete with both triumphs  and roadblocks,  we can help spread knowledge and  maybe even inspire others  to  take action towards positive change where they live.


Looking for signs

As a self-identified sign-hunter, Khara Woods is always on the lookout for street art in Memphis. On leisurely walks through her hometown, she documents property signage and graffiti as reference for her graphic design and hand-lettering projects.

Khara and NJ Woods

[Photo by David Leonard]

One day in midtown, Khara stopped in her tracks and took notice of a colorful new  graffiti-inspired mural  on a formerly unsightly wall along Lamar Avenue. The stark contrast between the mural design and surrounding disrepair drew into focus  the strange mix of rapid transformation and neglect  that for her characterizes the historic neighborhood of Rozelle-Annesdale. The wall sat adjacent to a freeway that now the divides the area, which was formerly a bustling corridor   for residents and commuters. Her curiosity piqued, Khara was determined to track down the artist responsible and soon learned that the art was one of eight installments comprising the “Paint Lamar” ioby campaign led by  Kyle Taylor. Khara kept ioby on her radar. She bookmarked the site to her browser and checked in periodically.


A family affair

She also sent the link to her mother. While Khara scouts emerging street art, her mother NJ Woods keeps busy as a “primitive folk” artist building on a collection of self-portraits depicting Mid-South and Civil Rights- era living. For some time now, they had been looking for a way to collaborate,   and they had an idea to  work on   a large scale public mural together.  They had applied for grants, responded to city RFPs and sought funding from arts commissions to no avail. Feeling defeated,   they tabled their collaborative project until they had the resources to execute on their own terms.

NJ and Khara Woods

[Photo by David Leonard]


A connection is made

In the early stages of ioby’s 85K  Memphis Match, Khara skimmed our blog announcement and promptly got in touch with our office  to float a question about what permission she’d need for a potential public mural project. After connecting with ioby’s   Ellen Roberds in person at an Urban Resource Center meeting, Khara shared her concerns about her lack of fundraising experience and navigating permissions for public property use. Drawing on her local relationships, Ellen facilitated introductions between local business owners, weighed in on potential sites, and even proofread Khara’s draft emails to property owners.

After much back and forth with  local stakeholders, Khara secured   the site of a welcoming local eatery in Midtown: Moore Food Company. Launching their ioby campaign “Headshots”, Khara and NJ quickly racked up   match funds for their $1,000 funding goal for wall clean-up materials and paint supplies. Inspired by NJ’s past collage work, the mother-daughter pair spent a couple of weekends rolling out a cast of minimalist geometric figures to represent  the diversity of their   Memphis neighbors. After Khara and NJ’s mural  went   up  on behind the  Moore Food Company, the restaurant  saw business profits spike – their beautification project  was clearly doubling as a placemaking success and a striking new neighborhood landmark!

Headshots mural

[Photo by David Leonard]


Vision meets guidance

Khara and NJ’s mural project reminds us that fundraising is just one of many barriers that can stand in a way of potential leaders starting a project. After being burned by grant opportunities, Khara felt discouraged by bureaucratic language, sluggish timelines, and by veteran organizers competing over resources  for public arts projects.

When the Woods pair came to ioby with the  vision to get their project off the ground, ioby provided the footing they needed to ask for buy-in from their community. Ellen’s guidance   throughout the process speaks to one of ioby’s core principles: we believe that our neighbors   know what’s best for their neighborhoods. While we’re confident that local residents are the ones best equipped to make on-the-ground change, our hands-on approach offers leaders the chance to build confidence and expand their skillsets. We’re here to affirm ioby leaders’ right to improve their neighborhoods   and to guide them through unforeseen hiccups along the way. ioby is proud to be a part of Headshots fundraising success and we hope it’s one of many for the Woods family!

And  remember: if you’re ever headed east from Downtown Memphis, keep on the lookout for the Woods’ bold and whimsical 10-foot  geocentric headshots to jut into view.

Meet Vision. Meet Tom Finkelpearl.

Tom Finkelpearl, a self described ‘Public and Cooperative Art Guy,’ is the Executive Director of the Queens Museum of Art. Here he discusses the power that artists have to draw a crowd and the Queen’s Museum’s work towards expanding and deepening social networking in the surrounding community.

About a hundred years ago, Marcel Duchamp took a urinal and he put it on a pedestal in a museum and called it art. The idea was, if you take something out of the flow of life and put it in a museum, which is out of the flow of life, it becomes art.


An artist who we are working with, Tania Brugara, said it is time to symbolically restore Marcel Duchamp’s urinal to the bathroom. To make it useful again. We actually did that. We have Marcel Duchamp’s urinal in our bathroom. It’s a urinal again. It has been repatriated. So she is having a meeting that we are sponsoring about useful art. There are environmental aspects of it.
Mel Chin has done a series of environmental works. He is a legendary guy. His most famous is one called Revival Fields, where he worked with a scientist from the US Department of Agriculture with certain kinds of plants which are hyper accumulators of cadmium and lead and planted them in some toxic waste sites in order to suck the toxics out of the soil and then burn the plants and mine them for cadmium and lead to pay for the process. So it’s a sustainable model of bioremediation.


He’s working on a huge project right now in New Orleans which is called the Fundred Project, that project is based around the idea of getting kids particularly, but also other people, to draw each person one $100 dollar bill. The idea of it is to raise enough money to deal with lead poisoning in New Orleans. This is a sort of post Katrina project. Already over 320 thousand people have participated in the project making individual works of art. And he’s going to go to Washington and try to redeem the money for bioremediation of the toxic wastes and lead poisoning in New Orleans. We were a Fundred site. We collected a lot of fundreds. He came by with an armored car.


Rick Lowe is this absolute visionary down in Houston Texas who has reclaimed a whole neighborhood. He now has a campus in a low-income African American community. He is an African American guy, grew up very poor on a farm in Mississippi. He has reclaimed a whole neighborhood as an art project.


It includes everything. He is building housing. He has revitalized several blocks of old row houses. They have community gardening. They are collaborating with Rice Architecture School on designing and building housing. He is a visionary of useful art.

We’ve been working off-site in Corona, at a particular part of Corona which is a low income mostly Latin American community in Queens, on a series of projects with artists (and some without artists). The major components have been public space and health and immigration. Part of the idea is that it’s all linked in together. You can’t separate the health outcomes from the community network outcomes from the environmental outcomes. So we’ve been doing big community festivals, often times based around big art projects.


Artists can draw a crowd. And when the crowd is there you test people for diabetes and high blood pressure, etc. When John Leonardo did a project as a Lucho Libre thousands of people were there and you say, “Okay, they’re here. Let’s see who has insurance.” Thousands of people signed up for low-cost insurance, which is like the public option if there were one — Metro Health Plus. Thousands of people got screened for various problems and they got immigration information.


This whole idea of cooperative art — that’s what I’m interested in, the idea that in the history of art the idea that the artist was this lonely person sitting in his studio is a very new idea. It’s only in the last thousand years that people have been isolated in their studios, before that, art was part of the collective.

We did a “social network map” of Corona and we had it mapped by this Center for Creative Community Development at Williams (C3D). The idea of social network mapping is to say that it is demonstrable that there are better social outcomes in communities with denser social networks, especially multi-layer social networks. So that if you are on the PTA and you’re also a member of the church and you’re also the member of a business association, and your neighbors are on those things too, and you have multilayered relationships and, for example, you show up at the Community Board meeting, and your friend who you talked to at the PTA doesn’t show up, you might call them and they might be lying on the floor waiting for someone to call and they answer and say “take me to the hospital!” The idea is to get more mutual surveillance.


So what we’ve done is one test of the social network map to understand both how dense the maps are and to understand how central the Queens Museum is to those maps, because the more central we are, the more important our role is.


We’re hoping is that we can demonstrate that the second time we do it, the map is denser, and The Queens Museum is more central. That’s the hope. If we’re actually helping our community, we’ve helped our community have denser social networks, we’ve brought people from the edges of the community more into the flow of interaction.
A good neighbor is someone who is active in the community. There are other communities I’m a part of besides my residential community, the art community, the school community. There are all these ways that actually having a kid ties you to a community — PTA, sports, etc.


I think privacy is overrated. It’s not associated with happiness. It is this protective sheen that Americans try to put around themselves which is unhealthy socially, physically, personally.


Every one of the happiness books says that being a member of a community, being active in your community is associated with happiness. All of these things that are counter intuitive to Americans are based on this idea of the individual, which is unhealthy.


There are very few animals that are as cooperative as human beings. We are aggressive and territorial, but we are also insanely cooperative. There are only four animals that have social units over a hundred thousand, and we’re one of them. So it’s ants, and bees, and I don’t know, bats, and us! And that’s amazing! So we have these social units, cities, and 8 million people are living together, and for the most part we cooperate. Then there is this question: why are we so fixated on the fact that we don’t cooperate?


I’m really rooting for our species to make it through all these problems we have, and the only way I can do it is by being cooperative. Not by being more competitive.


I had one experience with an artist, Merl Euchilles, not long ago and she did this project about this Jewish principle “tikkun olam” and it has to do with repairing the shattered world. She did a performance of it at the Center for Jewish History and the idea was for people to make some sort of pledge on the basis of that principle, it could be anything from being nicer to people, there is a whole wide range of what it could mean, she had this sort of performance and ritual. It was kind of hokey and I didn’t think it was one of her best pieces, but it actually changed my life.


There was this mirror, a two-sided mirror. You looked in the mirror and saw yourself, so it had to do with self-examination. So I made this pledge to repair stuff. These shoes have been resoled three times and I started to not just throw things out automatically. I did a renovation of my loft based on things I found on the street. I stopped using a dryer, cause you don’t have to, just hang things up and they will dry (Americans waste an amazing amount of energy on dryers). I just became much more conscious. I stopped buying stuff. It’s been a year and a half now and I’ve continued all this stuff. It was an amazing performance and it sort of crystallized what I was already thinking in a way, and it gave me motivation to make this commitment.


There is a lot of underlying spiritualism in artists’ work that doesn’t get acknowledged because it’s kind of embarrassing. The only artists who will say it are Buddhist, because they’re not afraid to say it.