Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

Takin’ It to the street: Arts Institutions as Forums for Urban Problems in New York’s Lower East Side

Max Holleran, Sam Holleran


This paper analyzes the ways in which arts institutions have expanded their community role to serve as forums for urban issues and potential generators of innovative design-based solutions. Using two case studies from New York City, we argue that arts institutions have increasingly used the philosophy of ‘design thinking’ to tackle public issues previously reserved for city governments and nonprofits. Through outdoor festivals, arts institutions sought to engage the public over issues such as housing, transportation, and environmentally conscious development. We ask what participatory process design brings to urban issues and how ‘design thinking’ can be compromised by frequent corporate partnerships. Finally, we consider how museums use design thinking as a new ideological rudder to expand their role into public policy and we assess the pitfalls of this process, including the often-uneasy relationships between traditional community groups and proponents of ‘design solutions.’

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