City Planning 2.0: Low Cost City Art Using Creative Commons Photos

What’s up with the lack of art in our cities? Every time I go out I see nothing but ads, traffic signs, and concrete. It’s sad when the only art we can find in a city are poster and billboard advertisements. We’re already overwhelmed by hundreds of logos and ads on a daily basis. I wish for once I could see imagery without it telling me to buy something. And whenever cities do put up art it’s always some ugly painting by 3rd graders (sorry kids), randomly welded cloths hangers, or some abstract, LSD induced “random shape” art. All of which, unfortunately, look like doo doo in my opinion.

Good art on the other hand costs too much for a city to afford or is only on display for a limited time. So instead of paying thousands of dollars to an artist so we can display his “Christmas Lights on a Broom Stick” piece lets just print out free, creative commons licensed, high resolution nature photos from onto billboard sized vinyl with grommets and anchor them around the city for a fraction of the cost.

The persuasion-less nature of the photos won’t offend anyone, has no message, but is beautiful to look at and a hell of lot less expensive than a bunch of randomly welded cloths hangers. The billboard grade vinyl will help the art last for years, even in direct sunlight. And it’s well known that nature photos calm people down. So it’s a win-win for the city, it’s budget, and the pedestrians who no longer have to walk through cold, empty concrete public spaces. Personally, I’d stick to more calming green images than the orange or red ones but my time looking for photos was limited.

Remember, there are literally millions of nature images available for use under the creative commons license. And if you can’t find something you like, just go to and buy a royalty free, high resolution image for $3-$10 bucks. Also, if a city wants something a little more customized you can always hire a professional photographer for a day and have them take a few shots of nearby landmarks or parks for more a personalized art installation.

An even better, but more expensive idea, would be installing panoramic nature scenes around the city. Honestly, if something like that were an option around my neighborhood i’d pitch in $200 bucks and help install it myself.

* station pictured is Forsyth on the St. Louis, Metrolink Red Line.
* pictures used are by InkHong, Matthey Fang, Jar0d, Patersor, and ToniVC.


  1. Meras says:

    Love this idea, I’d gladly help if local councils picked up on this. Looked through a bunch of your posts now, bookmarking your blog. You remind me of an inventor I forget the name of, just great common sense ideas you wonder why they haven’t been implemented yet.