A year and a half after its conclusion, Jennifer Evins, CEO and President of the Chapman Cultural Center, brought to light the many ways “Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light” positively impacted the city during a presentation of the project’s final evaluation at Monday’s city council meeting.

The project, part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge, was a partnership among the city’s police department, community relations department, the Chapman Cultural Center, artist Edwin Redl, and 10 city neighborhood associations. Spartanburg was one of four cities chosen to participate in the challenge. The four cities' projects were evaluated locally, Spartanburg's project being taken on by USC Upstate professor Michele Covington.

The goal of the project was to aid in creating and improving the relationships between Spartanburg citizens and the police department and local arts community. During the course of the project, which ran from December 2014 through April 2017, nine public art projects by Redl were created and installed in 10 neighborhoods: Andrews Farm, Converse Heights, Beaumont, Northside, Duncan Park, Maxwell Hills, Forest Park, Hampton Heights, Highland and South Converse, as well as on East Main Street and the Chapman Cultural Center. The nine pieces were constructed in open spaces and utilized LED lights with the hope of making the spaces not only safer but a vibrant part of the neighborhoods.

Evins noted that the nine artworks were viewed a total of 2.5 million times while they were on display and one-third of the city’s residents attended the opening events on National Night Out in October 2016. This was the first time the city celebrated the event in October, having previously celebrated in August.

The main goals of the project, as outlined by Evins, were to support the local arts community, improve police-citizen relations, foster a sense of community, and encourage collaboration. She said 117 local artists, 122 police officers, 980 volunteers and 83 partners came together to make the project possible.

“We had 35 meetings where people came from all walks of life and all interests and gathered every month during this process and planned the project together. They were government officials; they were police officers; they were arts leaders; they were neighborhood leaders," Evins said. "We even, by the end of the project, were exchanging recipes with police officers, so we really have a deeper friendship. There was a lot of social capital created through this time together.”

Evins said the project was viewed as a success by all the partners and even gained attention during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the challenges facing local law enforcement when Spartanburg Police Chief Alonzo Thompson brought up the efficacy of the public art project in improving police-community relations and the easy implementation of similar public art projects in other communities.

“The police officers have indicated that they have been receiving more notes and comments in appreciation than before the project,” Evins said. “So, we really are impacting the community relations and the police department and our officers who are so important to our city.”

Notably, "Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light" brought $148,000 in investments for future initiatives ($126,000 for arts initiatives and $22,500 for crime prevention and workforce development projects), led to the creation of a video that is now used in Spartanburg Police training, and was the impetus for two new arts initiatives — the ArtsXcelerator Challenge, a $10,000 annual grant for artists, and Lighten Up Spartanburg, the public “art bulb” sculptures.