Putting the ARTs in SmART Cities

The foundations of cities around the world are changing. As local governments look towards the future, the idea of Smart Cities have taken root. It is vital for us as arts managers to understand what smart cities are, how they are developed, and the impact they might have the future of arts organizations. We need to participate in the conversation, or as an industry, we will be forced to adapt to whatever new regulations and infrastructure we are handed at the end of the process. Smart cities represent an opportunity for arts organizations to help reshape their city in a way that will benefit them and their missions for years to come.

What are Smart Cities?

The definition of Smart Cities is rather fluid. Typically, when cities discuss shifting to a smart model they are referring to all the various ways tech may be integrated into the cities infrastructure. This can take various forms from better integrated traffic lights to the police using video sensors to target crime hot spots. Often, conversations include overhauls of the public transport system. Typically plans involve new methods for data collection, as well as new avenues for public and private partnerships.

Where do the arts fit into the conversation?

Given that smart cities often center around total city redesign, this presents an opportunity for arts to advocate for infrastructure changes that will help their institutions. For example, if a museum is aware that guests have accessibility issues when getting to the museum, they may want to advocate for specific bus or light rail routes.

Within the digitization of cities, opportunities for public art are changing. When Sydney, Australia began its Smart City plan, the arts were a vital part of the city’s development. This was a focused effort to increase both the city’s livability and integration with the arts. City planners were especially concerned that the uniqueness and diversity of the city was at risk of being lost. Compounded with concerns that all of the new constant data could overwhelm the cities future broadband network, they recognized a need for data-light public art. The transformation included 16 new public art projects. One of the most noteworthy was a piece called “Here, and Echo,” an interactive artist walk that generated content through personal interaction, and will then use these interactions as inspiration for a permanent exhibit.

More broadly, some smart city designs call for the arts to be relegated to a specific zone of the city. While there are a lot of benefits to having a specific cultural district or artist zone, what will that mean for institutions not located in this new zone? Would your organization consider relocating to a new facility in a design zone? If the answer is no, then it is time to make your voice heard to your local representatives.

The cities we live and work in are rapidly changing.  Over the next few weeks we will be further researching what smart cities will mean for the arts, and how as arts managers we can be a part of the conversation.   

 *  Hamblen, Matt. "Just What IS a Smart City?" Computerworld. October 01, 2015. Accessed March 02, 2017. http://www.computerworld.com/article/2986403/internet-of-things/just-what-is-a-smart-city.html.

* Hamblen, Matt. "Just What IS a Smart City?" Computerworld. October 01, 2015. Accessed March 02, 2017. http://www.computerworld.com/article/2986403/internet-of-things/just-what-is-a-smart-city.html.


What opportunities and challenges do you see for your organization? How could would you benefit from city wide technological changes? What concerns do you have about the smart city transitions? Let us know in the comments below!