There is an interesting Op-ed in the New York Times today written by Antanas Mockus, a former mayor of Bogotá, Columbia. (Between Mockus’s two terms, Bogotá was led by another visionary, Enrique Peñalosa.) In his article, Mockus describes an art intervention he implemented to address the problem of corrupt enforcement of traffic laws:
Another initiative in a small area of the city was to replace corrupt traffic police officers with mime artists. The idea was that instead of cops handing out tickets and pocketing fines, these performers would “police” drivers’ behavior by communicating with mime.
It’s not a huge idea, but it is a very creative one. Our own president was communicating a few creative ideas this weekend as well, via his twitter feed. In a series of tweets, President Obama suggested alternative uses for the $80 billion spent annually on incarceration in federal prisons. (Keep in mind that figure does not include state and local expenditures.)
These are big, creative ideas, but difficult ones. Change of this scale is really really hard — politically, socially, and logistically. Mockus closes his Op-ed with a dose of reality:
Changing a city is not the greatest political challenge; sustaining that change is. I used to have a Darwinian attitude toward politics: Just let ideas that are not sufficiently strong perish. Today, I realize that strong ideas can perish, too. As quickly as a city can progress, it can also fail. But never forget that huge changes can be achieved through surprisingly small steps.
What are some small art interventionist steps we can take today to make progressive change in our cities, our states, our country?