- Bloomberg Philanthropies and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Anchorage, AK as a winner of its 2018 Public Art Challenge.
- Anchorage will receive up to $1 million for its project, the Solutions for Energy and Equity through Design (SEED) Lab. The lab seeks to build collaborations between artists, designers, engineers, and community members to draw attention to climate change and find solutions. The city will partner with Anchorage Museum for the lab and will renovate a neglected downtown building to house it.
- "We SEED because we want to grow local solutions to global problems like climate change," Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said in a statement. “We SEED because harnessing the artistic talents and creativity within the Anchorage community can have worldwide impact.”
Anchorage was the first winner chosen from 14 finalists announced earlier this year, with the city getting the funds to execute the project over a maximum of two years. The challenge was first launched in 2014, with Bloomberg Philanthropies saying that inaugural effort generated $13 million for local communities and employed more than 800 people in full-time and part-time positions.
And it comes with Alaska struggling with the effects of climate change, something the United Nations warned earlier this year must be under control worldwide in the next 12 years, or else disaster will hit. Traditionally a major oil and gas power, Alaska has begun drafting a statewide plan to fight climate change, with 31 towns and cities in danger of needing to relocate as protective sea ice is melting, so shorelines are exposed to erosion. "Alaska is experiencing the impacts of climate change twice as fast as the rest of the country," Bloomberg said in a statement. "But it’s not too late to make a difference."
In all his contests, Bloomberg has emphasized the need for cities to get a handle on climate change and lead the way on fighting it. Bloomberg Philanthropies has already honored 18 cities this year as winners of its American Cities Climate Challenge, while there are several more honorees expected in this public art contest.
To some, promoting creativity through visual art installations does not permit a "smart city" identification, efforts like the Public Art Challenge actually push cities to promote urban identity in a way that cannot be done through most typical smart city initiatives. "We strongly believe in the power of this project to transform the idea of what public art can do to enhance and strengthen a community,” Julie Decker, director and CEO of the Anchorage Museum, said in a statement.