Public Art Proves Its Worth

Dan Rosenfeld looks at two recent projects in L.A. that incorporate public art components and finds that "investments in public art may provide the highest financial returns of any funds committed to an aspect of a transit project."

While the "soft" benefits of public art, such as education, inspiration, and aesthetic beauty are readily acknowledged, the marketing and income generating potential of such pieces are less well understood. Rosenfeld uses two recent examples from Los Angeles - the mixed-use Wilshire Vermont Station and The District 7 headquarters of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) - to support his argument for the financial benefits of public art. 

At Wilshire Vermont Station, images of murals painted by environmental artist April Greiman, "have been printed in dozens of publications, including newspapers and national and local business magazines. The images are routinely used by the local transit agency as emblems of the entire transit system, and the site is frequently host to press events and photo shoots. For example, the mayor of Los Angeles often uses the murals as a backdrop during televised announcements."

"The private marketing benefits, in real-dollar terms, of this modest public art investment are almost inestimably high. The continuing visibility, publicity, and brand identification that public art provided for the project were purchased for less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the project's total cost."

At the Caltrans building, an art installation of neon- and argon-filled tubes by Keith Sonnier, "provides a colorful and changeable display in the building's otherwise limited color palette."

"The building is now used frequently as a backdrop for feature films, television shows, and commercials, and has been displayed prominently in print publications around the world. Caltrans receives a substantial, ongoing income stream by licensing the entry plaza as a backdrop for still photography and TV/film."


Full Story: Public Art in Transit


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