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Edward Huang: Public art policy?

As a member of the Arcadia General Plan Advisory Committee for the City of Arcadia, I would like to propose to include a discussion of the need for the establishment of an Art Policy/Program in the Arcadia General Plan to promote culture, art, walkability, safety, & business opportunities for our community.

Fellow GPAC committee member Scott Hettrick has already expressed support for this proposal. * Editor’s Note: Arcadia resident Edward Huang is Senior Planner at Community Redevelopment Agency, City of Los Angeles and a Sustainability Committee Member at CRA. In addition to being a member of GPAC in Arcadia, he is also an Arcadia Beautiful Commissioner and a former Arcadia Planning Commissioner. He is Founder-Principal at California Institute of Environmental Design & Management (CIEDM). See video at bottom of Ed Huang’s eco-home in Arcadia.

What is public art?

Fountain in foreground at plaza of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels downtown Los Angeles

Fountain in foreground at plaza of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels downtown Los Angeles

Public art is any media – paintings, sculptures, drawings, mobiles, posters, light arrangements, electronic art, bas relief, and other art forms – that is displayed, staged, or sited in a physical public domain.


At a more human scale, the public water feature at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (right) allows people to sit and chat on its very ledge. The more that public art is interactive – engaging the public through one of the five senses – the more that art will affect and transform people.


What are the benefits of public art? Public art has the potential to cause many positive, constructive reactions in a community, ranging from engaging conversations, creating an interesting identity for a place in the community, increasing community pride, providing opportunities for youth to participate in an artistic and cultural dialogue, and promote cultural awareness and tourism that facilitates cultural & economic development in the community.

Cerritos Library plaza from Ralph Toyama at

Cerritos Library plaza from Ralph Toyama at

Public art is able to help the establishment of identity of a public place such as a plaza, a street, a downtown and of an entire community. It is a solution to the anonymity of a characterless place because the creativity of the art works grasps the people eyes and attention, a moment to laugh & relax that pulls them out of their daily monotony, and connects them with a visual pleasure & inspiration.

Public art is a place-making tool, and once a place is identified with unique art features, it will draw crowd to the place and turn the place for cultural & economic opportunities. In case of downtowns, the northeast corner of Garfield Avenue and Main Street in Alhambra has a public art plaza. The plaza along with the buildings & uses around the plaza forms the anchor and an attraction to Alhambra downtown.

Our Arcadia downtown is beautiful & peaceful, but lacks the dynamics and characteristics to be a “downtown.”

In the case of public streets, public art can create a new identity and enhance walkability for a street. Streetscapes integrating imaginative and thought-provoking public art will encourage pedestrians and promote safe streets and healthy neighborhoods. Public art makes alternative transit pleasant for public use. LA Metro regularly commissions artists to design art for transportation projects throughout Los Angeles County. We will soon have a Gold Line Station in Arcadia.

Many cities & states require 1% of the construction cost of public facilities/buildings and/or private development of a certain size to be set aside for public art works. We recommend that Arcadia adopt such a program as many other cities do because it promotes culture, art, walkability, safety, & business opportunities.

Please let us know your thoughts about this proposal by leaving a comment below.

Edward Huang, PhD, AICP, LEED AP, CGBP, CEI Senior Planner – Downtown Region CRA/LA

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