Art and Urban Regeneration in New York City. Doris C. Freedman’s Public Project




Public art, public space, urban art, urban regeneration, New York City


Given its positive economic, social and urban impact, even with low-cost or low-tech materialization, the urban creativity encouraged by the arts is of great interest today. This narrative reviews one of the most prolific careers in this regard addressing the pioneering work by Doris C. Freedman. The late 1960s and the 1970s, in the context of two financial crises, saw a groundbreaking effort to formalize innovative artistic programs that recycled the obsolete city and integrated local communities in the processes. Doris C. Freedman was the first director of NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, the Public Arts Council, and leader of the organization City Walls. These institutions promoted an unprecedented improvement of the public urban life through the cultural action. Such experiences led Freedman to the conception of her last project, the relevant and, still, ongoing Public Art Fund of New York City. This article focuses on her early professional years, when she began and consolidated herself in the task of legitimizing art as an urban instrument for shaping the city. This research provides a contextualized critical analysis on Freedman’s less-known experimental projects before the foundation of the Public Art Fund, enabling an extraordinary source of inspiration for a current creative city-making.


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Author Biography

María F. Carrascal Pérez, Universidad de Sevilla

María F. Carrascal is an international Ph. D architect, whose studies and teaching explore the field of creative regeneration in contemporary cities, focusing particularly on the role of art in the advancement of urban contexts. Her line of research has been distinguiste nationally and internationally, being recently the base for the theory seminar “Pioneering an Open Access to the The City” held at Cornell University (2018) or the practical seminar "Tactical Piacenza, on Creative Urban Practices" at Politecnico di Milano (2017). Carrascal has been a visiting scholar at Cornell University (AAP New York ), Columbia University (GSAPP), the Municipal Art Society of New York, the Politecnico di Milano - Campus di Milano (Ph. D. Program) and Piacenza (Master of Sustainable Architecture and Landscape Design), St John ‘s University New York (Department of Art and Design), Universidad Nacional de Colombia, and Universidad de Barcelona (ETSAB). She also has accomplished visiting fellowships in the Spanish Cultural Center of Equatorial Guinea and the University of Delft. Since 2011, she is a research fellow of the Research Group PAI HUM666: Contemporary City, Architecture and Heritage (, in the research branches on Urban Obsolescence: Dwellings, Urban Creativity and Transferences Spain-America-Africa. She has coordinated and organized a number of research events regarding such lines (forums, exhibitions, workshops and publications). She is coauthor of the book: Handbook of Good Practices. For the Intervention on Obsolete Residencial Estates (Abada Editores, 2016), based on an I+D+i Project funded by FEDER funds and the Government of Andalusia and aimed to guide the rehabilitation of 1950s-1970s social housing from an innovative and creative approach. She is a founder member of the CityLab Laboratorio Q aimed to study Places of Urban Creativity ( and create an international network of creative spaces, low-cost actions, and bottom-up processes (US-Sevilla; UCL- London; Universidad de los Andes -Bogotá; Politecnico di Milano-Milan). Her doctoral thesis, entitled City and Art. Cross-dialogues on Space. New York in the 1970s, received the Extraordinary Doctorate Award, the highest distinction that the Spanish public university grants in the branch of Architecture and Engineering in Sevilla, and distinguished in the last Iberoamerican Biennial of Architecture and Urban Planning – X BIAU Sao Paulo 2016 –among more than a 150 thesis in the iberoamerican context. This work was supported by the Universidad de Sevilla through a four-year predoctoral fellowship and mobility grants. The research, which was also conducted at Columbia University, St. John’s University and Universidad de Barcelona (visiting scholar fellowships), including the Documentation Center of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona, MACBA, and the Archives of the Museum of Modern Art of New York, MoMA PS1 Archives, obtained the highest distinction (Sobresaliente, Cum Laude) and the International Mention. Since 2008, she regularly teaches at the Universidad de Sevilla –Departamento de Proyectos (2008-2009), Departamento de Historia, Teoría y Composición Arquitectónica (2011-2018), Departamento de Urbanística y Ordenación del Territorio (2018-)– in the Bachelor of Architecture and the MSc on City and Sustainable Architecture (2014-). She has also been adjunct lecturer at the Department of Art and Design of St John’s University New York in its international program in Europe (2015-2017), and collaborated with the International School of Events, Management and Communication, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, from the area of Design and Cultural Industry (2016-2018). Her work from ARTIPICA Creative Spaces, focused on temporary architecture, has been acknowledged by national and international institutions including COAM awards-Official Professional Association of Architects-Madrid, FAD Awards for Architecture and Interior Design-Barcelona, ICO Foundation-Spanish Government, or the Architectural League of New York.


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Research articles
Received 2019-11-14
Accepted 2020-09-23
Published 2021-04-30