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Art in the Smart City

Author: Sandeep Hota

The following excerpt is from a discussion paper that was produced as part of a collaboration between Utsha Foundation for Contemporary Art , Ila Panda Centre for Arts and Jatin Das Centre of Art . Together they form the Bhubaneswar Art Collective – a city based think tank on art and culture . It was founded on the firm belief that collaboration and consensus was the way forward for developing the rich art and cultural heritage of the state. For more information please send your questions to


The Bhubaneswar Smart City project provides the leading urban centre in Odisha – a growing metropolis of a million people – a unique opportunity to transform itself. The 7 Smart City Pillars (1) afford an integrated platform that would lead to the holistic development of the city and provide its citizens a safe, inclusive, liveable and sustainable environment to live in. With the focus very much on technology as the key enabler in the design and implementation of the Smart City, it is imperative that the city also take a good look at the strategic use of its rich art and culture in its future planning and implementation.

The power of art and culture to transform cities into a more desirable place to live, consume, produce and thus become more competitive in the knowledge economy we live in, is well documented. Several cities around the world have adopted active art programs and policies to not only attract investment and talent but also to build and engage communities in a meaningful manner. Programs like the San Diego Public Arts program (2) have been remarkably successful in engaging communities and artists and transforming public spaces using public art projects. Creative clusters like Southbank in London, the Temple Bar in Dublin, Cable Factory in Helsinki, Tramway in Glasgow, murals by Mexican muralists across Mexico City, and the West Kowloon Cultural District in Hong Kong are thriving examples of how culture and the arts can be used as resources for urban regeneration in cities.

The development of a strategic citywide art and culture program in the Smart City setup has also been stressed in numerous forums by eminent speakers including the Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant.(3) In fact on a recent visit to India organised by the Singapore International Foundation, Singaporean Senior Minister of State, Masagos Zulkifli emphasised the operational aspects of smart city status (e.g. land acquisition and legal mechanisms) but also argued that urban plans should emerge from an understanding of “cultural nuances.”(4) Such an objective requires closer working relationships between Smart City planners and art organisations from an early stage within a defined program and policy framework and a list of targeted opportunities to achieve success.


The opportunity to proactively plan the city’s development with art and culture as a central axes has been afforded to Bhubaneswar with the Smart City project. A Temple City with a history stretching back to the 1st century BCE, Bhubaneswar has a vibrant cultural legacy and an emerging contemporary artistic temperament across art, architecture and culture that cannot be ignored in any future urban development. Key opportunity areas for the involvement of art and culture in urban planning would include:

· The strategic use of public art not as a method to mitigate the impact of poorly planned urban spaces but as an integral part of community planning and engagement, thereby intensifying a citizen’s experience of the public realm and opening up opportunities to create meaningful civic discourse for the city’s residents. A comprehensive public art program could include objectives like:

  1. Strengthening neighbourhood and community identity and pride through a curated approach. E.g. Minneapolis has public art under the Neighbourhood Gateways program that delineates the city’s many neighbourhoods, with residents of these communities envisioning and creating the art work thus driving a sense of ownership.(5)

  2. Providing opportunities and delineated spaces for education and learning. E.g. Be it performance art in public spaces on social or environmental issues or attending art events in the city, learning in and through the arts enhances learning in other domains and general scholastic achievement as per Edward Fiske in his seminal ‘Champions of change: the impact of the arts on learning’.

  3. Increasing the use of public facilities like transit. E.g. Cities and transportation agencies in Canada are increasingly leveraging the many benefits of public art in transit, which range from increased ridership through improved aesthetics and increased vibrancy, to improving relationships with the community. (6)

  4. Driving sustainability objectives E.g. Brazilian-born artist Vik Muniz’s project at the worlds’s largest landfill in Rio de Janeiro is a great example of how art can help highlight a city’s sustainability objectives and engage communities.(7)

· The creation of engaging public spaces using art as a medium to define the meaning of the place and to attract a wide-ranging group of the city’s residents and tourists. E.g. The Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park, London plays host to numerous events and exhibitions attracting large crowds throughout the year as do spaces like the Kew Gardens in the same city.

· Temporality of installations as opposed to permanent nature of painted streetscapes, with exhibitions and performances in such places will keep public interest engaged and encourage intermingling of communities from several parts of the city. There is a significant economic upside to this too as seen in other cities attempting this. A good example is the ‘Cows on Parade’ installation in Chicago. The former world-renowned temporary public art installation brought an estimated additional 2 million visitors to the city. During the three-month exhibit, these tourists spent approximately $500 million on hotels, food, and sightseeing.(8) Kalaghoda Festival in Mumbai ( and the Jaipur Literature Festival. Both draw thousands of people from across the city and the country. The latter has now changed in nature, but the Kalaghoda Festival is a benchmark of inclusive cultural planning open and free for all.

· The active promotion of certain areas of the city as creative clusters or cultural districts and to encourage artists to settle there by creating spaces, quarters and milieus for cultural production and creativity. Cultural districts and artist neighbourhoods have universally been known to drive up the appeal of the area and creating what has been called the ‘urban buzz’.9 As suggested by a recent E&Y FICCI report titled “Creative Arts in India” such clusters would go a long way in providing opportunities to showcase artists, establish an authentic ‘sense of community,’ enrich a destination through cultural expression and also attract tourists and residents.(10) Hauz Khas Village and Lado Sarai in Delhi have made this apparent. The above opportunities and examples outline the significance of a holistic and community oriented development of Bhubaneswar by the strategic use of an art and culture program in concert with the Smart City program.

The Way Forward

With the Smart City program gathering momentum in 2017, the Bhubaneswar Art Collective believes this is an opportune moment to engage with the Smart City urban planning and implementation process to have meaningful early dialogue on the subject of developing a city-wide art and culture program. To this end, we propose to do the following:

· Art in the Smart City Visioning Seminar – Conduct a 2 day seminar in November 2017 with key stakeholders including the Smart City SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle), Bhubaneswar Municipality Corporation (BMC), Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) , Smart City Advisory Forum and leading experts from the fields of urban planning , art , architecture and other intellectuals. The focus of the seminar will be to come up with a Smart City Art program with a defined vision, objectives and framework.

· Smart City Art Advisory Forum – Set up a Smart City Art Advisory forum that will have a mandate to advise and supervise the planning and implementation of the Smart City Art program along with the Smart City SPV, BMC, BDA and other stakeholders.


The Smart City program is a historic opportunity to reshape the very contours of how we perceive Bhubaneswar as a growing urban environment to exist and grow in. An organic approach that blends in the views of art and urban planning within a framework of a Smart City Art program and guided by a Smart City Art Advisory forum will serve to build a more participatory and joyous environment for Bhubaneswar’s residents as well as for the state in the future.


  1. Bhubaneswar Smart City portal –

  2. Public Art | City of San Diego Official website –

  3. ‘Smart cities and the plight of cultural authenticity’ – Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy –

  4. Public Art Policies and Procedures – Minneapolis Arts Commission 2007 –

  5. Public Art and Design in Transit –

  6. The 25 Most Amazing Community arts projects –

  7. How Art Economically Benefits Cities –

  8. ‘Follow the drips of Paint’ –

  9. ‘The Rise of the Creative Cluster’ –

  10. ‘Why smart cities need art and culture to thrive’, Dec 28, 2016 –

About the Author:

Sandeep Hota is a practising management consultant based in Bhubaneswar with an abiding interest in the arts. He spends his time volunteering at Utsha on conceptualising and managing different art projects. He has also represented Utsha at the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism 2017.

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