The Los Angeles Department of Transportation is testing out an unusual approach to making the city’s streets safer— it’s hiring an artist. The city just named sound artist Alan Nakagawa as its first Creative Catalyst Artist in Residence, Gizmodo reports, tasking him with coming up with innovative new ways to help the transportation department improve traffic safety.
Nakagawa is well-versed in L.A.'s transportation world, as he previously served as the Senior Public Arts Officer for the city’s Metro. Over the course of a year, he’ll receive $20,000 to work as a part-time contractor with the Department of Transportation’s Vision Zero initiative, which, like others across the world, aims to eliminate fatalities on roads completely.
"Alan built his art career on listening. This is the starting point for all his projects—to ask the right questions, learn from experts, and develop creative approaches that balance need with aesthetics,” the general manager of L.A.’s Department of Cultural Affairs, Danielle Brazell, said in a press announcement [PDF]. “Designing solutions that are expressive, colorful, and effective is what fuels his art making practice.”
In 2014, Nakagawa used a grant from the Department of Cultural Affairs to create a sound piece combining recordings from L.A.’s Watts Towers and Barcelona’s Sagrada Família cathedral. This summer, he’s working with the Getty Museum to create a series of interactive sculptures that use audio recordings to explore ancient art.
According to Gizmodo, his transportation-related projects will focus on regional differences in how Angelenos use their streets and on documenting the oral histories of transportation engineers and planners.