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Michael Bloomberg’s official mayoral portrait (image via NYC Mayor’s Office/Twitter)

Bloomberg Philanthropies, the foundation established by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, announced yesterday an initiative that will see at least three cities receive up to one million dollars for public art programs. Dubbed “Public Art Challenge,” the program will disburse the funds over a two-year period to “celebrate creativity, enhance urban identity, encourage public-private partnerships and drive economic development.” According the Bloomberg Philanthropies website, proposals can encompass all artistic disciplines, and there are only two eligibility requirements: that the proposed project come directly from the host city’s mayor and that it “be on behalf of a collaboration between the host city and an artist and/or arts organization.”

The effort follows the Bloomberg foundation’s $17 million grant last month that provides funding for digital programs at major museums, including the Brooklyn Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among others in New York and around the world. Despite what has been pointed out (in the New York Times and elsewhere) as Bloomberg’s relative private disinterest in the arts, Bloomberg Philanthropies has given, according to the Wall Street Journal, $83 million “to arts institutions around the world” since 1999.

This private patronage has coincided with a general decrease in government funding for the arts in the United States. A 2013 study from Grantmakers in the Arts cited by theTimes in their coverage of the new Bloomberg moneys points to an inflation-adjusted decline in arts funding of 30% between 1992 and 2013.

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Mostafa Heddaya is the former managing editor of Hyperallergic.

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