Objective: Launch a public art program to improve aesthetics and enliven underutilized spaces throughout Wichita Falls.
During the stakeholder engagement process, the appearance of portions of Wichita Falls emerged as a competitive and quality-of-life concern. When asked to rate the “aesthetics and appearance of the community,” fewer than 14 percent of online survey respondents described this feature as “strong or very strong” compared to more than 44 percent who rated it “weak or very weak.” Input participants said that some parts of the community are negatively impacted by vacant or underutilized private properties and/or public rights of way that need beautification.
The City of Wichita Falls has taken steps to address these issues. It has launched a collaborative revitalization program with initial efforts concentrated in the Floral Heights, Highland Addition, and Southland Addition neighborhoods. It has also created a Vacant Structure Registry for Downtown and surrounding neighborhoods to help ensure that unoccupied buildings are secure and well-maintained and that a local contact is available to address any issues.
This Key Initiative complements the City’s ongoing efforts with a new program designed to enliven the community with public art. Stakeholders said that Wichita Falls has the right capacity to support and enhance public art, including the Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts and Culture and many talented artists and dedicated neighborhood volunteers. Input participants said these organizations and individuals could help design and implement relatively low-cost aesthetic improvements on blank walls, vacant buildings and storefronts, and (in cooperation with the City) on public rights of way.
Public art programs (Sioux Falls, SD)
1. Develop resources and capacity to support a community-wide, multi-faceted public art program
- Complement the City of Wichita Falls’ Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative with a new community-wide effort to utilize public art to enliven public properties and enhance the appearance of private commercial buildings
- Build upon the partnership between the City of Wichita Falls and the Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts and Culture and work with public, private, and nonprofit partners to develop additional resources to fund grants and stipends for artists and to ensure the program is effectively administered
- Ensure that the program engages diverse artists and that public art projects are distributed equitably throughout the Wichita Falls community
2. Commission murals on highly visible blank walls on public and private properties
- Work with artists and public and private stakeholders to create murals in highly visible murals throughout Wichita Falls
- Create a framework for selecting artists and mural designs and resource stipends to compensate artists for their time
3. Enliven areas with high foot traffic with creative public art and street treatments
- Work with the City of Wichita Falls and private parties to support additional creative public art installations on public property, sidewalks, etc.; potential treatments include pop-up parks and gathering spaces, creative street furniture, decorative sidewalks, and crosswalks, etc.
- Engage an external partner such as the Better Block Program to provide technical assistance and a “toolkit” for neighborhood groups and other interested parties to advance placemaking efforts
- Pair improvements to the public right of way with an increased emphasis on litter removal
4. Activate vacant storefronts in key commercial areas with art installations and other temporary uses
- Create a micro-grant program to support low-cost, high-impact temporary art installations in key commercial areas; work with property owners and local artists to identify candidate projects
- Under the program, artists would develop renderings and budgets to apply for a small grant (e.g.,$500 to $2,000) to cover material costs and a small stipend for the artist; artists would be responsible for supplying labor for installation and (if applicable) removal
- Evaluate the performance of the City’s Vacant Structure Registry program and consider expanding the initiative throughout the community in support of additional storefront activation and to ensure that commercial properties remain in good condition