San Francisco Public Utilities Commission shows how art can support sustainable water management

Aug. 22, 2018
Agency recognized for "Advancing Water Through Art" at US Water Alliance 2018 One Water Summit.

The SFPUC partners with communities, nonprofits, the private sector and other government agencies to creatively shape the character and identity of neighborhoods through public art and the design of buildings. Images courtesy SFPUC.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, AUG 22, 2018 -- The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is receiving a distinction from the U.S. Water Alliance for its use of public art projects to drive positive change in sustainablewater management.

"Over the years, the SFPUC has been working to align our art investments with our Agency's mission and community interests while providing local artists with opportunities to create public art in the neighborhoods in which we operate," said Juliet Ellis, Chief Strategy Officer and Assistant General Manager of External Affairs at the SFPUC. "It's an honor to be recognized for our work and to be a model for other public agencies that use art to change how water is viewed, valued and managed."

Out of the eight organizations selected nationwide, the SFPUC is the only government agency chosen for an Art in Action Case Study in the U.S. Water Alliance and ArtPlace America's report, Advancing One Water Through Arts and Culture: A Blueprint for Action, which was unveiled during the 2018 One Water Summit.

The U.S. Water Alliance report highlights arts and culture strategies and case studies that are advancing sustainable, integrated and inclusive water management. The SFPUC is included in the report for the Agency's innovative approach to fulfilling the San Francisco's 1969 ordinance requiring all city agencies to set aside 2 percent of all above ground construction project costs to support arts enrichment.

Since 2012, the SFPUC has partnered with the San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) to align art funding with the needs and priorities of the neighborhoods most impacted by its operations. The agency created an Arts and Education Manager role, which is responsible for collaborating with the SFAC, identifying opportunities and advocating for the incorporation of arts into the planning, design and building of major capital projects.

"Our agency is committed to public art projects that support both our environmental mission and the stories, values and contributions of the communities where the art is being placed," said Blair Randal, SFPUC Arts and Education Manager. "As we upgrade our Sewer System Improvement Program (SSIP), we are collaborating with the SFAC and the Bayview-Hunters Point Community so that the public art associated with our infrastructure upgrades speaks to local residents."

The SFPUC is partnering with the SFAC to develop an Arts Master Plan, which will serve as a guiding strategy for the agency's public art investments in the Bayview community. While creating the Arts Master Plan, the two agencies worked with local community organizations to hold a series of meetings, bringing together Bayview leaders and community members of all ages to discuss how public artwork in the Bayview can reflect the history and culture of the neighborhood. Highlighting the SFPUC's commitment to be a good neighbor to residents of all ages, the Arts Master Plan will be the first in San Francisco to include a youth perspective.

"We applaud the SFPUC for recognizing the important and powerful role artists can play in promoting awareness about the environment and bringing community together," said Tom DeCaigny, Director of Cultural Affairs at the SFAC. "Artists bring a unique perspective to any project and help communicate in ways that engender an emotional response and inspire action. The San Francisco Arts Commission is incredibly proud of the work that we've done with the SFPUC and we look forward to an ongoing partnership."

To learn more about the SFPUC's public art efforts, visit the agency's art webpage here.