L.A. River art project gets a boost from Michael Bloomberg

Plans to display artworks alongside the Los Angeles River and to educate the public about water conservation and the drought have received a significant boost thanks to a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable organization of New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg Philanthropies announced Tuesday that four community initiatives have been selected to receive up to $1 million each as part of its Public Art Challenge, a new program to support temporary public art projects.

The L.A. initiative is expected to commission up to 15 multidisciplinary works of art and public programs focusing on environmental concerns. As part of the initiative, L.A. intends to launch a public art biennial that will display works alongside the L.A. River as well as other sites.

"CURRENT: LA River" is a partnership between the office of Mayor Eric Garcetti and the city's Department of Cultural Affairs. The initiative is intended to help draw focus to issues including water conservation and the drought.

The project will be curated by Marc Pally, who serves as artistic director of Glow, the biannual public art event on the beach in Santa Monica.

The other winning cities are Gary, Ind.; Spartanburg, S.C.; and Albany, Schenectady and Troy, N.Y., which proposed a joint project. 

Bloomberg Philanthropies said it received 237 applications for the grants from cities across the country. Twelve finalists were selected in March. 

Long the butt of jokes demeaning it as little more than a public drainage, the L.A. River has been the focus of revitalization efforts by Garcetti, whose administration has sought to increase funds to restore the body of water to a more natural state. 

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT 

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