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We helped Chicago Public Schools (CPS) plan facility and service improvements with two city-wide surveys from March through April. The conversational nature and efficient build of our surveys makes finishing them easy and quick. Ease and efficiency keep our survey completion rates higher than online and paper survey rates4. Textizen provides citizens the means to speak out and collaboratively overcome socio-economic barriers.
Sound government decisions grow out of citizen diversity and the voices they bring to the table. We keep participant data strictly anonymous so it is unclear how many survey respondents also attend city hall or town planning meetings.
Our surveys provided CPS the initial step towards bridging the gap of trust and collaboration with citizens. Community meetings can now begin with more information on the table, both from the government and from citizens. Our surveys’ attention-grabbing posters appeared in local trains and buses thanks to a partnership with the Chicago Transit Authority. As an added bonus, our electronic polls completely cut out the cost of printed ballots and the labor time needed to canvass the entire city.
Mapping CPS survey responses by ZIP code illustrates that participation is spread throughout the city. City planning meetings tend to attract the outspoken and can skew the government’s perception of public opinion. Still, looking purely at our CPS survey data, only two percent of all respondents took part in both surveys. The CPS Draft 10-Year Educational Facilities Master Plan5 used the surveys as part of the community engagement process. Knowing more about what the people want provides a great jumping off point for CPS to enter into dialogue that better serves individual communities.
We’re excited to see where the data takes CPS and the many avenues of communication that it will open for the people. My dad lived there until he enlisted in the paratroopers, the 101st, I think, when he was 19. I rode them to go downtown to shop, in the days when women wore white gloves to go downtown. Primarily focused on engaging a community or a group of people, community arts projects involve a variety of media and often function to facilitate a dialogue within a group. Over 2,000 people participated in the surveys and, even though they’re officially over, eager citizens still send input our way.
Going a step further and weighting response distribution against population distribution per ZIP code indicates that response rates correlate with the population size of ZIP codes. Our polls not only evenly gather the opinions of people from throughout cities, they provide for minimal overlap of participants. In other words, the remaining 98 percent provided unique perspectives or approximately 49 out of 50 surveys were done by first-time Textizen users. Citizens should know that they can make a difference and we want to provide the tools to further empower them.
In other words, you could finish a five-question survey before your fast food order is ready1, two surveys before you receive your morning latte2, and 14 surveys during your commute to work3. The resulting high unique count creates data sets that are more representative of the people as a whole. Some of the community arts projects included in this list offer children and adults an opportunity to create art and build self-esteem, some are a means to revitalize disenfranchised communities, and some simply offer people a place to express themselves through a visual means. The following community arts projects were chosen for their ingenuity, their resourcefulness, and their ability to fully engage and inspire their communities.25. With Muniz’ assistance, the workers created a series of enormous self-portraits from the millions of recyclable items they recovered during their daily picks of Jardin Gramacho.
The project was intended to offer the workers new perspectives on themselves and their communities, which are plagued by poverty and dangerous working conditions.
Edible HutCalimera Park, Detroit, MIImage SourceCreated by Detroit artists Mira Burak and Kate Daughdrill and Osborn neighborhood residents, the Edible Hut is a study in a community’s ability to revive a fallen city.
Lack of funding has forced many of Detroit’s parks and natural areas to be maintained by local residents, not the city itself, and the Edible Hut creates a community gathering area, as well as a space to grow and rebuild one of Detroit’s oldest neighborhoods.

The hut, a structure composed of reclaimed materials, offers a shelter for educational activities, performances, and an outdoor retail space for selling the hut’s veggies. Plantings placed on top of the Edible Hut include veggies and other edibles that provide food for the community and help create shade over the structure. NAMES Project AIDS Memorial QuiltAtlanta, GAImage SourceCreated in 1985 by AIDS activist Cleve Jones, the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt is the largest piece of community art in the world, and it was nominated in 1989 for the Nobel Peace Prize. The quilt is composed of over 48,000 panels, each handmade and dedicated to the memory of those who have lost their lives to the virus.
In its infancy, AIDS victims were often marginalized and because little was known about the virus, many victims weren’t allowed standard funerals or burial services. Early on, the quilt project provided an outlet for families and friends to connect and memorialize those who were lost. The organization offers mid-level juvenile offenders a means to build self-esteem and confidence through creating murals along Seattle’s SODO Urban Arts Corridor. Beginning as a method for clearing the city of graffiti, the group has produced over 400 murals throughout Seattle.
The program allows disadvantaged youths with an opportunity to earn wages and repay court ordered restitution to their victims while simultaneously offering opportunities for leadership and friendship. Creativity ExploredSan Francisco, CAImage SourceCreativity Explored offers both creative space and art education to adults with developmental and severe disabilities. Founded in 1983 by artist Florence Ludins-Katz and her husband, psychologist Elias Katz, Creativity Explored seeks to provide a space for creative expression which the couple believed had the power to enhance personal identity and growth.
The organization supports six yearly exhibitions of work ranging from painting and sculpture to handmade objects and books. Recently, nine of Creativity Explored’s members were showcased in an exhibition at the University of California at Berkley Art Museum. City of Philadelphia Mural Arts ProgramPhiladelphia, PAImage SourceFounded in 1986 by current Executive Director Jane Golden, the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Programs initially began as part of the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network.
Headed by Golden, the organization works together with artists and communities to increase neighborhood beautification through the arts. Golden’s team invites graffiti artists and local residents to contribute their creative visions to each project, and currently the organization has created 600 murals throughout the city. Six sites throughout America’s heartland have acquired murals through the project, and many of the mural projects were physically created by members of the community while under the guidance of professional artists like David Loewenstein. Los Angeles Poverty DepartmentSkid Row, Los Angeles, CAImage SourceLos Angeles’ Skid Row is home to thousands of homeless residents and is known as the poorest part of the city. In 1985 performer and activist John Malpede set out to establish an organization that could help Skid Row residents tell their stories through artistic expression.
With the hopes of ending negative stereotypes and decriminalizing poverty, the Los Angeles Poverty Department was born.
Known as the first performance group composed of homeless people, as well as the first arts program created for homeless people, the LAPD, as they call themselves, creates regular performances and artworks to educate themselves and surrounding communities about inclusion and stereotypes. The group offers art workshops and is facilitated by a group of artists who offer mentorship and support. The Incredible Edible ParkIrvine, CAImage SourceFormed in 1999 in Irvine, California, The Incredible Edible Park provides nearly 100,000 pounds of fresh organic produce to residents in need each year. Established on an unused easement, The Incredible Edible Park covers 7.5 acres that includes a number of varieties of edible crops as well as 80 fruit trees.
Saving the city of Irvine nearly $4,500 yearly in weed control, the park is maintained and harvested by community volunteers, and the food is donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank which feeds nearly 200,000 people annually. Precita Eyes MuralistsImage SourceFounded in 1977 by Susan and Luis Cervantes in San Francisco’s Mission District, the Precita Eyes Muralists is a non-profit organization that seeks to educate and employ nearly 3,000 youths yearly.
Offering community workshops and an opportunity to work on a number of mural projects throughout the city, the group’s first mural was created at the Bernal Heights Library. It is a place where community members gather weekly, and in 1999 Rise Wilson decided to help bring art education to her Harlem neighborhood laundromat.
Setting up folding tables in front of the storefront, she extended passersby with a unique opportunity to make a piece of art. Nearly 15 years later, The Laundromat Project has served a number of communities throughout New York City, and offers low-income people of color a chance to learn and make art together thus, strengthening their communities.
GroundswellBrooklyn, NYImage SourceFounded in New York City in 1996, Groundswell seeks to promote collaborative art making by combining community activism and personal expression. The organization, led by a number of artists, educators, and activists, brings together artists, youth, and community organizations with the intention of citywide beautification through murals and art installation projects.

Rise Up InternationalBend, ORImage SourceAssisting in the spread of art and education, Rise Up International seeks to give international underprivileged youth the materials to create art.
Bringing together artists, youth, and their communities, the group seeks to use “art as a tool for social change,” and facilitates regular trips to Nicaragua, Albania, and Tunisia. The communities and children involved are taught the arts of mural making, silk-screening, and painting, and are encouraged to express themselves creatively. Berkley Community GardenBoston, MAImage SourceOnce the location of a number of brick row houses, the Berkley Community Garden and Peter Park have been in operation since the 1970s. Early plots were placed illegally on parcels of city land and were in danger of removal until the establishment of the South End Lower Roxbury Open Space Land Trust was created to preserve the community’s garden spaces.
In the 2000s, improvements were made and fencing and paved pathways were installed within the space. Beacon Food ForestSeattle, WAImage SourceSeattle, Washington’s Beacon Food Forest is thought to be the largest food forest of its kind on public land in the United States. Created with the help of Beacon Hill’s diverse community alongside Harrison Design and Permaculture Now!, the project aims to bring the community together while concurrently providing healthy and affordable food to the community. Promoting cultural exchange as well as recreational and educational opportunities, the Beacon Food Forest includes a children’s area, a nut grove, and a berry patch. Residents contributed their own ideas to the food forest, and it has since become an area of local pride.
Chicago Public Art GroupChicago, ILImage SourceFounded in 1971, the Chicago Public Art Group, formally known as the Chicago Muralist Group helps to organize and promote community public art in Chicago. An elected group of “core artists” lead community projects like murals and playground structures, and have created hundreds of works of art over the last 40 years. Before I DieNew Orleans, LAImage SourceNew Orleans artist Candy Chang developed Before I Die after she lost a loved one. She painted the side of an abandoned building in her neighborhood with chalkboard paint, and stenciled the words, “Before I die I want to ________,” in a grid across it. Passersby contributed to the wall by filling in the blank spaces, and there are currently 475 walls in 30 countries that have been created using Chang’s original design.
Still Running offers a series of community art exhibitions showcasing a range of work that is submitted by people across the country. It also promotes fundraising through the sales of buttons and t-shirts designed by participating artists, with proceeds benefiting those affected by the tragedy.
Lastly, regular “art marathons” are held to create work for first responders including firefighters and hospitals. Like many of Detroit’s neighborhoods, Guyton’s childhood neighborhood was greatly affected by the late 1960s riots, and he wanted to revitalize and improve his home through art.
Creating the Heidelberg Foundation, Guyton and his grandfather began painting a number of dilapidated and abandoned buildings with brightly colored polka dots.
They affixed large found objects, mosaics, and painted boards to many of the structures and quickly determined that the area, where many people were once afraid to walk, offered residents a sense of pride in their community. Chang stenciled the prompt, “When I was little I wanted to be a _____________, now I want to be a ___________,” along the path and provided chalk for community residents to contribute their answers. North Austin Community GardenAustin, TXImage SourceCommunity gardens offer residents of a neighborhood a means of growing their own food and a sense of camaraderie and community. The North Austin Community Garden, opening in the spring of 2014 seeks to create a community gathering and work space that includes a teaching pavilion, teaching garden plots, a picnic area, and a butterfly garden.
To DoNew York, NYImage SourceThe first installation of Illegal Art’s To Do was on Crosby Street in New York City in May 2006. The project, a number of Post-it notes spread across an unused storefront, encouraged passersby to contribute their to-dos, commands, reminders, or mantras. In CompleteNew York, NYImage SourceSimilar in scope to the work of Candy Chang, Illegal Art’s In Complete first appeared in New York City in May 2006. Key to the CityNew York, NYImage SourceCreative Time, one of the nation’s first proponents of community based public arts projects, presented Key to the City by Paul Ramirez Jonas. The project, intended to instigate conversations about belonging, provided everyday citizens with an honorary “key” to the city.

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