anthropology · architecture · community · design · environment

Does adding art to slums improve poor’s quality of life?

I saw this article last week on Recycle Art, about a design company in Brazil that does outreach to poor communities by creating more aesthetically pleasing surroundings:

Brazilian design studio Rosenbaum and TV show Caldeirao do Huck help poor families to redecorate their homes and improve their surroundings, in the hope that they feel more comfortable and happier at home.

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I’m pleasantly surprised by this philosophy. And apparently this idea is starting to pick up steam.  The New York Times just published an article (also below) about a design show being presented at the United Nations right now focusing on design for third-world countries, trying to create effective, efficient, and hopefully beautiful tools, boats, and buildings.

I’m curious, however, if designing a new space or adding beauty to an already existing slum really works. Does having a more beautiful environment make you want to protect it and invest in it? Even the curators of the exhibit in the New York Times article state that building something new and getting people to adopt it are two entirely different challenges.

I know having a greener work space is correlated with better worker productivity, and many communities in the U.S. have installed public gardens or parks with some success regarding improved community involvement and improved outlook of the neighborhood. The groups featured in the exhibit claim successes all over the world. However, somewhat similar experiments have been tried out with movie stars and athletes installing movie theaters or centers in poor neighborhoods with mixed success with mixed results, as I remember.

I would be interested in seeing more studies that looked at parks or even residential gardens and patios correlated with crime rate, income, and so on.

Anecdotally, have you seen or know of anyone who has seen a correlation between greening or beautifying a space and better sociological stats?

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