Artistic Board-Up Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative
As part of a pilot project, abandoned buildings are being enhanced with artistic boards in order to reduce the stigma of blight that is synonymous with vacant boarded buildings. To that end, the Artistic Board-Up program involves painting boards on vacant buildings in order to improve the structure's appearance as well as to engage residents, community organizers, and local artists as part of the creative process. While an occupied building is ideal, artistic board-up efforts hope to restore interest and vitality to areas and buildings which may have otherwise been forgotten or perceived as uncared for while going through a critical transition.
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Artistic Board-Up Program Overview
Artistic board-up is a neighborhood revitalization initiative that transforms blighted neighborhoods through community engagement and art. Paint is applied to the plywood boards that cover the windows and doors of drab vacant structures. The art may reflect cultural traditions, goings-on when the home or business was occupied such as a gathering of friends and family, or perhaps children playing. Sometimes the boards are transformed to simply appear as undamaged windows and doors. Department of Neighborhood Services (DNS) representatives decided to implement the artistic board-up concept in Milwaukee after attending a presentation at the Reclaiming Vacant Properties conference hosted by the Center for Community Progress in 2012. This symposium gathers leaders from across the country to explore innovative ideas and solutions for tackling the challenges of vacant, abandoned and nuisance properties which are growing at an alarming rate across the country and are almost always inevitable magnets for crime and vandalism.
DNS made its Artistic Board-Up Program debut by hosting a “Board-Up in a Box” workshop for community-based organizations in October 2012. The seminar focused on training community organizers on how to transform a vacant boarded property by utilizing art to enhance the building’s appearance. The training also focused on tools and techniques needed to successfully implement an artistic board-up. By the end of the day workshop participants had transformed a vacant boarded home in the Franklin Heights neighborhood. Community interest of the artistic board-up concept continued to grow and in December 2012 DNS partnered with Wells Fargo to sponsor the artistic board-up of ten city-owned residential and commercial properties all located within a Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Area.
In February 2013, Artistic Board-Up was displayed at the Mayor’s State of the City address and was also featured in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article and online blog shortly thereafter. Meanwhile the interest in artistic board-up continued to evolve as a multitude of stakeholders approached the city expressing interest in becoming involved with the initiative. Department of Neighborhood Services, the Department of City Development, and the Neighborhood Improvement Development Corporation, along with community partners, began round table discussions to exchange ideas about expanding artistic board-up, focusing on hardest hit foreclosure areas, and fundamentally integrating community as the underpinning of the program. This dialogue helped to formulate a collective framework of ideas and themes that have led to Phase III of the Artistic Board-Up Program which will emerge at approximately twenty properties within the hardest hit foreclosure neighborhoods: Amani, Metcalfe Park, Sherman Park, Washington Park and Thurston Woods. Additionally, community clean-up events will be held in conjunction with one of the artistic board-ups in each neighborhood.