in American subways in the 1970s, according to Widewalls, an art website. Graffiti was once seen as a blight that lowered property values. Over time, many graffiti artists, such as Keith Haring, emerged as gallery-worthy designers. Developers took note. A pioneer in the move to add outdoor art was Goldman Properties. Tony Goldman transformed Soho in New York City and Miami’s Wynwood and South Beach sections into upscale properties, in part because of large-scale outdoor art projects. Art has paid off. A 2016 study in the United Kingdom compared geotagged photos of art on Flickr with property values and found a distinct correlation between street art and increased property values. “Neighborhoods which have a higher proportion of ‘art’ photographs also have greater relative gains in property prices,” researchers concluded. 28 INSIGHT • November 2018
According to Realtor.com, art projects in Chicago’s Millennium Park fueled real estate growth to the tune of $1.4 billion. Even in smaller, suburban communities, public art is seen as a key factor in improving the urban environment. In Malden, Massachusetts, a commuter city outside Boston, Malden Arts has launched the ARTLine initiative to create outdoor galleries. The initiative emerged after Malden Arts created a mural this past spring in a small neglected park, using motifs from famed children’s illustrator and Malden native Ed Emberly. Previously, the park was “totally unnoticed and had an ugly wall on a parking garage,” said Naomi Kahn, Malden Arts treasurer. “We finished (the mural), I went for pizza, I came back, and I found people already were drawn to the park.” Now Malden sees art as a way to improve its cityscape.
Many low-income urban areas struggling to attract development have turned to murals. The blighted city of Lynn, Massachusetts, is still best known for the decades-old rhyme: “Lynn, Lynn, city of sin, you never come out the way you go in.” Now, Lynn has another reputation—as the location of the “Behind Walls Mural Festival” which attracts flocks of visitors downtown to view the more than 40 murals. Beyond Walls, a nonprofit focused on revitalizing downtown Lynn, sponsors the event. The group raises money, gets commitments from property owners about using their walls and recruits well-known muralists. The work reflects a graffiti influence; some are luscious portraits of women and men; some resemble cartoons; and some are as elaborate as a Diego Rivera painting. News organizations delight in picking out favorites.