Columbus Art Walks

State: OH Type: Model Practice Year: 2012

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Columbus Public Health is located in Columbus, Ohio and serves approximately 800,000 people. The program directly targets the nearly 250,000 residents and employees of 9 neighborhoods featured in the practice. Performance measures show that 1.4 % of the target population directly participated during the program period. The public health issue this practice seeks to address is obesity and chronic disease. Recent county data (2005) shows 59.1 percent of the adult population is overweight or obese with about 50 percent meeting physical activity guidelines.

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Columbus Public Health
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Columbus Art Walks
Columbus Public Health is located in Columbus, Ohio and serves approximately 800,000 people. The program directly targets the nearly 250,000 residents and employees of 9 neighborhoods featured in the practice. Performance measures show that 1.4 % of the target population directly participated during the program period. The public health issue this practice seeks to address is obesity and chronic disease. Recent county data (2005) shows 59.1 percent of the adult population is overweight or obese with about 50 percent meeting physical activity guidelines. During the most recent school year, 43 percent of kindergartners, 40 percent of third graders and 46 percent of fifth graders in Columbus were overweight. Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Research shows that walking to work, school or for errands, increases physical activity levels and can help curb rates of obesity and chronic disease. According to the American Heart Association, walking has the lowest dropout rate of any physical activity and is one of the simplest, most affordable ways to get moving. While providing the opportunities for walking are critical, other factors such as the design and condition of the built environment impact individual choice to walk. Research conducted by National Think Tank, PolicyLink, shows that aesthetically pleasing places with a perception of greater safety lead to community pride and break barriers to physical inactivity. Design features such as public art can create the social infrastructure needed to promote walking. The goal of this practice is to promote walking in the city by engaging a diverse set of community partners to help enhance the social infrastructure for walking in Columbus neighborhoods. The objectives of the practice are to: 1. establish a program whereby neighborhood partners can leverage existing visual assets (such as public art, architecture, and historical or cultural sites) to promote walking as a form of active transportation and 2. over one year, increase the number of public art projects initiated in the City by neighborhoods outside of the downtown core by 50%. In the long term, the practice intends to increase the number of Columbus neighborhoods with public art and the social infrastructure to support walking in daily life. The practice, called Columbus Art Walks, is a series of self-guided public art walking tours of nine urban neighborhoods in Columbus. In total, the program features over 270 sites, 25 routes, and is over 40 walkable miles. Each walk is accompanied by a pocked-sized walking map, a cellphone or audio devise accessible audio tour, and signage marking the physical location of the site. An Educational Resource was also developed to promote the program to schools and families. The Healthy Places Program concurrently engaged community groups within each neighborhood to select content for the walking tours through a collaborative process and secured funding to implement the project. Implementation required engaging a design firm to select walking routes and design maps, local historians to write audio tour content, a voice over specialist to record audio content, the City’s Department of Technology to set up phone service for the audio tour and web service for the website, and the City’s Department of Public Service to fabricate and install signage. With the project occurring within the City of Columbus, funding for a central project coordinator, the voice over specialist, most technology services, and printing funds were all available through the City’s general fund. Additional public and private funds were raised for map design services ($9,000), an interactive online map ($1,000), additional printings ($2,000), a part-time intern ($5,000) and signage ($64,000). Neighborhood groups contributed significantly by donating over 700 hours to develop audio content for the Art Walks. The practice was launched in June 2010, with performance measures reported through October 2011. Both objectives were met and surpassed goals. Additional outcomes of the practice include new public art policies and projects proposed within the city, some in partnership with the practice, and an elevated civic conversation regarding public art. The practice’s success is attributed to its being developed in complete partnership with community coalitions, thereby creating a shared sense of ownership. By engaging the community in this way and choosing to feature transitional as well as successful neighborhoods, the program helped to empower neighborhoods one might never have expected to not only seek to create new public art works, but regard those works and their streets as places that should be promoted, celebrated, and walked. Lessons learned include allowing more time for program implementation and better coordinating when program elements come online.
Health Issues  The public health issue this practice seeks to address is obesity and chronic disease. Recent county data (2005) shows 59.1 percent of the adult population is overweight or obese compounded by the fact that about 50 percent are meeting physical activity guidelines. During the most recent Columbus City Schools year, 43 percent of kindergartners, 40 percent of third graders and 46 percent of fifth graders were overweight. Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Regular physical activity is associated with decreased risk for obesity, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, certain cancers, and premature mortality in general. Obesity and physical inactivity are also associated with lower quality of life as both are associated with depression, osteoporosis, joint pain and other musculoskeletal complaints. Research shows that walking to work, school or for errands, increases physical activity levels and can help curb rates of obesity and chronic disease. According to the American Heart Association, walking has the lowest dropout rate of any physical activity and is one of the simplest, most affordable ways to get moving. While, providing the opportunities for walking are critical, other factors such as the design and condition of the built environment impact individual choice to walk. Research conducted by National Think Tank, PolicyLink, shows that aesthetically pleasing places with a perception of greater safety lead to community pride and break barriers to physical inactivity. The mission of the Healthy Places program is to create places that foster physical activity as a part of everyday life. The Healthy Places Program has previously won an NACCHO Model Practice Award for its role in helping to shape how our community is designed so that it supports equitable access to physical activity infrastructure such as bike racks, sidewalk connections and wide sidewalks. However, if residents do not feel safe, encouraged, or socially connected to place, they are less likely to choose to walk even if the infrastructure to do so exists. Social interaction helps form community and a sense of safety and design features such as public space or public art can help promote social interaction. Research recognizing the link between health and the design of the built environment prompted the creation of the Healthy Places Program in 2006. The program has successfully impacted built environment design by focusing on increasing biking and walking infrastructure through various city development processes. Healthy Places has also been engaging the community around the idea of walking in neighborhoods by conducting walk audits with residents. For these audits, residents walk the neighborhood and give input on where they like to walk and feel safe doing so, as well as where they are afraid and do not like walk. In the 25 walk audits Healthy Places has conducted all over the city, residents consistently report that the two greatest deterrents to walking in their neighborhoods are missing sidewalk infrastructure and aesthetics. Federal programs such as Safe Routes to School affirm these findings by identifying that there are 4 E’s to promoting walkability: engineering, enforcement, encouragement, and education. City systems are currently in place to address engineering and enforcement for walkability, but education and encouragement for walking are less prominent. Conversely, the city has invested substantial resources in the 4 E’s for biking in our community, including bike facilities, share the road campaigns, and an annual event for cyclists, but has not done so as extensively around walking. Unlike walking, biking has individual barriers attached to it such as cost and skill level. Thus, the unmet need that emerged in our community was removing the aesthetic barriers to walking in neighborhoods. The conversation about aesthetics has been elevated recently in Columbus as it is on the eve of its bicentennial birthday. Projects to beautify the downtown began being planned about the same time the Healthy Places program was created. However, few of those projects were planned to extend into the neighborhoods where aesthetics were of the greatest concern. The Healthy Places program initiated this practice to take advantage of bicentennial projects and use them to address education and encouragement of walking by focusing on removing aesthetic barriers and build up the social infrastructure for walking in Columbus. This practice uses public art and community engagement to promote walking in our city. Urban redevelopment pioneers such as Richard Florida have noted how public art can be a very powerful tool because of its ability to help highlight a community’s soul, history, and uniqueness – all of which are shown to foster social interaction, which is important in encouraging an active lifestyle. Evidence from various studies conducted by Arts Council England show that participation in the arts can provide a non-threatening, alternative way to engage in a healthier lifestyle and that participation in cultural activities has been found to lower participants’ blood pressure. Although initial investments may range in cost, public art can be one of the most accessible forms of art the public can participate in as what technically constitutes public art can be broadly defined. The program applies Thomas Frieden’s Health Impact Pyramid, by impacting individuals as well as populations. As Frieden’s research demonstrates, traditional health promotion and education activities have the greatest impact on individual behavior. Columbus Art Walks helps individual organizations not traditionally focused on public health issues engage their constituents in personal health behavior changes. But, as Frieden recommends, does so by concurrently changing the context of the environment to help make individuals default decisions healthy. Signage added to the environment helps individuals find destination points or continue to discover new neighborhoods to visit on foot. To this end, the initial selection of Art Walk neighborhoods was important in helping foster walking and aesthetic improvements. Both vibrant neighborhoods with the largest concentrations of public art and transitional neighborhoods with smaller amounts of public art were featured by the program. This encouraged walking activity in already walkable areas and empowered transitional areas to more fully consider themselves as walkable. The practice has also served as a motivating factor for neighborhoods currently lacking public art or other aesthetic features to find ways to add them in order to gain an Art Walk. By engaging a diverse set of community partners to help enhance the social infrastructure for walking, CPH can impact chronic disease in the long term. Innovation Self-guided walking tours along a signed trail are not fundamentally a new idea. Communities in Indianapolis, Asheville, and Boston have all developed signed trails celebrating their unique histories through the arts. What sets Columbus Art Walks apart as a unique and new practice is that none of those projects 1) have been managed, initiated, or championed by local public health organizations, 2) have been accompanied by the same suite of supplemental tools (pocket maps distributed by over 30 partner organizations, audio tour, distinct signage, and educational resources), 3) have been used as a way to change the culture and social infrastructure for walking in a city, or 4) have been used as a mechanism to spur new public art development in vulnerable neighborhoods. To develop this practice, the Healthy Places Program benchmarked and consulted with cities across the country to assess how like projects have been implemented. The Healthy Places Program determined that rather than try to raise funds to initiate costly and new public art projects that, due to political will might only occur in the most economically developed areas of the city, it would focus on helping residents appreciate existing assets and help connect coalitions of public and private partners to foster new public art projects. Public health has traditionally focused only on individually based interventions to change behavior to promote active living and is only recently now working on implementing policy, systems and environmental changes. Columbus Art Walks is a unique approach to address physical activity for the following reasons: 1. It concurrently implements environment change and works toward systems and policy change alongside individual-based interventions. Walking and aesthetic infrastructure changes community design and the environment in which people live. Environmental change such as pedestrian signage, sidewalks, and public art provides the physical and social infrastructure to be more physically active. 2. It engages very non-traditional partners to promote a health issue (without it appearing to be a blatant health promotion message). Columbus Art Walks helps to educate these non-traditional partners about the common focus of their work and public health. Many partners are concerned with increasing pedestrian traffic in commercial areas to promote local patronage or revitalization. Attaching these higher purposes beyond individual health to the program further incentivizes good health behavior. 3. It uses cultural history and public art as intervention mechanisms. Cultural history helps create connections to place and build social cohesion. Public art and other aesthetic improvements improve real and perceived safety as well as how individuals feel about where there live, an important factor in promoting good mental health.  
Primary Stakeholders neighborhood residents and community coalition groups such as business associations neighborhood-based non-profits civic associations area commissions special improvement districts professional associations city agencies. Role of Stakeholders/Partners Stakeholders were involved in selecting and identifying content to feature on Columbus Art Walks. They organized public meetings, facilitated the collection of ideas, and significantly researched content for audio tours. Stakeholders also played a major role in helping to shape all of the additional features added to the project, such as signage and its design, educational resources, and promotional features such as “QR” codes on program posters. Further, Stakeholders were the major communicators of the project and were responsible for linking Columbus Art Walks to events occurring in each of the neighborhoods, helping to deepen the reach of the project. LHD Role CPH played the role of project manager and convener. Project management involved: identifying a process for how to develop a neighborhood-based Art Walk, working with the City’s Department of Technology to make an audio tour freely available to the public, contracting design services for route and map development, implementing program promotions and communications, raising funds for the program, and authoring an educational resource for parents and teachers. Convening involved: Identifying pilot Art Walk neighborhoods and the appropriate stakeholders and stakeholder groups in each neighborhood, engaging with stakeholders and forming working partnerships, liaising with groups to promote the program, and working with city agencies (such as the Columbus Art Commission and Division of Planning) to connect neighborhoods seeking new public art projects to resources. In both roles, as project manager and convener, the most important job was listening. Developing a project like this, and ensuring that it is accepted and adopted as a reputable program within a given neighborhood, involves securing significant by-in and consensus from stakeholders and understanding that each neighborhood has unique wants, needs, and viewpoints. The Healthy Places Program engaged over 30 community partners ranging from business associations, neighborhood-based non-profits, civic associations, area commissions, special improvement districts, professional associations, and city agencies within nine pre-identified neighborhoods to create nine, unique Art Walks. Apart from a few press-releases, distribution of over 25,000 paper maps, and outreach appearances at over 25 community events, promotion of the program was completely drive by neighborhood partners. The Healthy Places Program would often directly contact neighborhood groups to request that the Art Walk be promoted on websites or become a featured component of neighborhood events, but most of the time, once a collaboration was formed, that happened automatically. One very special collaboration occurred between the Healthy Places Program and an individual artist who scattered small public art works throughout neighborhoods. After contacting the Healthy Places Program to seek getting his project featured on the Art Walk, he agreed to scatter public art in neighborhoods he had never reach before – thereby increasing the impact through collaboration. In several instances, the Art Walk represented the first time that various neighborhood groups collaborated together and helped to create new collaborations between groups. For example, in two existing Art Walk neighborhoods, two neighborhood groups have come together to initiate a new public art project – which they might not have initially collaborated on had it not been for the Art Walk. Different from how traditional public art projects are developed, the art walks did not require a specific “curatorial team” but rather allowed anyone to identify what they viewed as a treasured visual asset in their neighborhood. By engaging the community in this way and choosing to feature transitional as well as successful neighborhoods, the program helped to de-stigmatize the perceptions that public art can in some ways be inaccessible – thereby empowering neighborhoods we might have never expected to not only seek to create new art works, but regard those works and their streets as places that should be promoted, celebrated, and walked. Lessons Learned As this practice was implemented in the public sector, one of the major lessons learned is that implementation can take longer than expected. While we met our objectives, we suspect that our program participation numbers might have been higher had all program elements come online at once and early in the spring. But, because our process was collaborative – many of the elements were initially suggested by stakeholders, which made it difficult to coordinate when implementation would take place. Additionally, we learned that each neighborhood and their views of public art are unique. Listening to the neighborhood groups about what they wanted featured as opposed to being prescriptive about what to feature is key to ensuring that the Art Walk is adopted and promoted as a celebrated neighborhood project. Implementation Strategy The goal of this public health practice is to promote walking in the city of Columbus by engaging a varied and diverse set of community partners to help enhance the social infrastructure for walking in Columbus neighborhoods. The practice, called Columbus Art Walks, is a series of self-guided public art walking tours of nine urban neighborhoods in Columbus. In total, the program features over 270 sites, 25 routes, and is over 40 walkable miles. Each walk is accompanied by a pocked-sized walking map, a cellphone or audio devise accessible audio tour, and signage marking the physical location of the site. An Educational Resource for K-12 Educators and Parents was also developed to promote the program to schools and families. The Healthy Places Program concurrently engaged community groups within each neighborhood to select content for the walking tours through a collaborative process and secured funding to implement the project. Implementation required engaging a design firm to select walking routes and design maps, local historians to collaborate with Healthy Places to write audio tour content, a voice over specialist to record audio content, the City’s Department of Technology to set up phone service for the audio tour and web service for the website, and the City’s Department of Public Service to fabricate and install signage. The Art Walks were created in phases, with funds raised before each phase was implemented. With the project occurring within the City of Columbus, funding for a central project coordinator (program manager for the Healthy Places Program), the voice over specialist, most technology services, and printing funds for a first run of maps were all available through the City’s general fund. Additional public and private funds were raised for map design services ($9,000), an interactive online map ($1,000), additional printings ($2,000), a part-time intern ($5,000) and signage ($64,000). Neighborhood groups contributed significantly by donating over 700 hours to develop audio content for the Art Walks. The practice was launched with 1 walk in June 2010 and expanded to 9 walks by August 2011. The program is ongoing with performance measures reported through October 2011. Three new walks are planned to be released in spring of 2012, for a total of 12 walks. Timeline: 1. Idea conceived and pitched in 2007 and again in 2008. 2. Research of feasibility began in early 2009, with full program proposal approved in late 2009. 3. First round of partners for three walks engaged in early 2010. 4. Content development for first three walks occurred from March-May 2010. 5. The first walk was launched in June 2010 at a major neighborhood event. 6. Second and third walks launched in October 2010 with large event. Funding proposals for next six walks submitted that same month. 7. Next round of partners engaged from November-December 2010. Educational Resource development began during same period. 8. Content development for next six walks occurred from December-March 2011. 9. Signage funding approved in 2011 Capital Improvement Plan. 10. One new walk released each month from March of 2011-August of 2011. Each release happened with a community event. 11. Columbus Art Walks Educational Resources launched and promoted to schools in August 2011. 12. Columbus Art Walks evaluation activities: August-October 2011. 13. Next round of partners will be engaged November-December 2011. Existing Art Walk annual review process occurs during same period. 14. New neighborhood-based public art projects implemented January-March 2012. 15. Next three Art Walks launched April-June 2012.  
Process & Outcome  The goal of this public health practice is to promote walking in the city of Columbus by engaging a varied and diverse set of community partners to help enhance the social infrastructure for walking in Columbus neighborhoods. The primary objectives for the practice were: Objective 1: Establish a program whereby neighborhood partners can leverage existing visual assets (such as public art, architecture, and historical or cultural sites) to promote walking as a form of active transportation. Evaluation Type: Process Performance Measures used: The number of unique Art Walk website visitors as a proxy for total target population reached. The number of Art Walk Audio Tour Calls as a proxy for target population directly participating. The number of Columbus Art Walk Partners as a proxy for social support for walking and public art promotion. The number of neighborhoods with Columbus Art Walks. Data collection: Data was collected by the Healthy Places Coordinator on a monthly basis from a variety of sources. Website analytics were collected monthly using Google Analytics for the Columbus Art Walks webpages (15 total pages). Call volume reports were run monthly by the City’s Department of Technology for the Columbus Art Walks phone number. Columbus Art Walks partners were tracked through recognition on each Art Walk produced. Evaluation Results: Unique Art Walk Website Visitors from June 2010 to October 2011 as a proxy for total target population reached: Goal of 3,364, Actual was 3,604. Art Walk Audio Tour Calls as a proxy for target population direct participation: Goal of 630, Actual was 932. Columbus Art Walks Partners as a proxy for social support for walking: Goal of 30, Actual was 31. Number of neighborhoods with Columbus Art Walks: Goal of 9, Actual was 9. Across all performance measures, Columbus Art Walks met and exceeded expectations. Feedback: Results from the first full evaluation of Art Walks have yet to be released to all of our community partners; however they have been shared internally with LHO officials at Columbus Public Health to inform direction of the program next season. One of the most interesting results we found from our broader performance measures was that of all of the individual, neighborhood-specific Art Walk webpages, the second most visited web page was for one of the most transitional neighborhoods with a low SES, health-vulnerable population. This suggest to us that the demand may be there for programming like this to extend to other low SES, health-vulnerable population neighborhoods if we are able to convene stakeholders around public art projects. CPH will be convening all Art Walk partners before the end of the year to share results and gather feedback for the coming season. Objective 2: Over one year, increase the number of public art projects initiated in the City of Columbus by neighborhoods outside of the downtown core by 50%. Evaluation Type: Outcome Performance Measures used: New Public Art Projects initiated by neighborhoods outside of the downtown core. Number of neighborhoods soliciting the Healthy Places Program to create an Art Walk. Data Collection: The Healthy Places Coordinator carefully monitored press releases and local media outlets for announcements of new projects on almost a daily basis and maintained a database of articles announcing projects. A database was also kept for solicitations or inquiries for new Art Walks. Evaluation Results: New Public Art Projects initiated by neighborhoods outside of the downtown core: Goal of 4, Actual was 7. Number of neighborhoods soliciting the Healthy Places Program to create an Art Walk: Goal of 1, Actual was 2 Across all performance measures, Columbus Art Walks met and exceeded expectations. Additionally, one of the newly initiated projects might result in a public art policy change. One neighborhood has proposed to create murals in crosswalks. The proposal would require new polices to be adopted, outlining standards and rules for this practice, thereby creating a new policy, system, and environmental change for public art. Feedback: Results from evaluation of this objective are predominantly public information and have thus been shared. Interestingly, the two neighborhoods that approached Healthy Places about developing new art walks were adjacent to neighborhoods already highlighted by an Art Walk. Both also had low SES, health-vulnerable populations. Given these indicators, we can say that Columbus Art Walks has helped to elevate the overall conversation about public art in the City. Concurrently, these additional areas of growth in resources for public art were seen during the evaluation period: a new/temporary funding program to support neighborhood projects (such as public art) was established, there are new public art projects planned for Downtown Core, and city staff was added to the Department of Development support new downtown public art projects. While all of these additional resources are wonderful, their continued orientation toward downtown or economically thriving neighborhoods reiterates that there are disparities among neighborhoods and their aesthetics and that those disparities can have an impact on individual health.
The project is marketed to the public as being developed in partnership with each of the stakeholder groups involved. Stakeholder’s logos are placed on program materials, thus building in a form of accountability for the program. With over 30 stakeholder groups, the burden of the program’s promotions is distributed enough that stakeholders do not feel like they have been overcommitted to anything. And, with the city’s general fund paying for the printing of maps and other promotional materials – they are essentially being provided with free program resources. The Healthy Places Program proactively checks in with stakeholders and before any change is made to an Art Walk, it is approved by the partner groups. Further, by building in an annual update period, it helps stakeholders look forward to either redeveloping or featuring new art walk projects. Offering signage to feature new projects has been a huge motivator for participation and new development. Although content with the greatest probability of longevity was selected to be featured on the initial Art Walks, murals, buildings, or even Columbus’ recent history can change. The Healthy Places Program deliberately took measures to ensure that the Art Walk program would be sustainable in the following ways: Existing Walks: The Healthy Places Program created an annual review process whereby Columbus Art Walk Partners will be asked each winter to engage their stakeholders to submit updates or request changes to their Art Walks in time for a media launch each spring, Art Walk signage was fabricated such that the only individually identifying features on the sign (site and neighborhood name) were screen-printed separately, allowing those features to easily be changed and signs to be recycled in the same or in different neighborhoods if there are changes, and all of the audio, visual, and other web-based content for the program is managed centrally by the Healthy Places Program, allowing for updates and changes to be made without any additional investment and out of the view of the public. New Walks: The Healthy Places Program has two committed public/private funders: Columbus City Council and a Local Arts Council. Both have made commitments to sustain development of new Art Walks through 2012. This funding would make Art Walks possible for all of the neighborhoods who solicited CPH to have an Art Walk. If CPH receives additional solicitations beyond 2012, it will seek funding from the same or new sources. CPH is leveraging a new community neighborhood improvements grants program to help two neighborhoods initiate public art projects. In the future, it plans to help facilitating connections between neighborhoods in want of public art projects and resources for their development (such as the large, local student artist population in Columbus, interested funders, and other agencies interested in similar projects).
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