Evaluating Civic Outcomes

Evaluating Civic Outcomes

Creative Graffiti Abatement Projects, Los Angeles County

The Project

In 2013, the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture received a grant from the LA County Regional Parks and Open Space District for artists to develop artworks and community engagement strategies that would promote the value of civic spaces and decrease vandalism at two county parks and two libraries. The project created new cultural assets that were designed to meet the needs of each site, tested a new model to ensure that artists were fully supported to complete a project, and embraced evaluation as a component of the project design. Because public engagement was crucial to success, a fifth artist was hired to collaborate with the others to create engagement plans and demonstration programs for future culture programming at each site. The project sites were selected based on the frequency of graffiti at the sites, and opportunities to leverage other County investments such as renovation or construction projects. For more, see the project website.

Theory of Change

The Creative Graffiti Abatement Project was designed around the idea that involving the community in the development of artworks would lead to artworks that are valued by the community. If the community felt ownership and attachment for the artworks and the artwork sites, then there would be greater stewardship and less vandalism.


Municipal and Arist Teams:

Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture works as a third-party partner to coordinate M/A partnerships and related projects in the county.


Susannah Laramee Kidd, Research Analyst at the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture. The internal Research and Evaluation team aims to improve Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture’s work and strengthen the impact of the arts overall.


This Evaluation in Action profile draws from Art as Infrastructure: An Evaluation of Civic Art and Public Engagement in Four Communities in South Los Angeles County

Funding for Evaluation:

Mellon/ACLS Fellows Program which funds two-year staff positions for recent humanities and social sciences PhDs at nonprofit and governmental organizations.

Evaluation Focus

Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture and the county partners defined these guiding questions for the evaluation:

  • Is there a reduction in vandalism at the sites?
  • Is there increased positive activity at the facilities and specific intervention spaces?
  • Did the project change perceptions about these sites and create a sense of attachment to these places?
  • What capacity was built for future arts and culture programming, among staff and among community members?


The evaluation implemented a mixed-methods approach, using both quantitative and qualitative data collection methods. The evaluator was embedded in planning and public engagement activities throughout the project, combining elements of a Developmental Evaluation approach with ethnographic strategies. In Developmental Evaluation, the evaluator provides real-time feedback to program staff members so that they can adapt programs to complex and evolving situations. Ethnographic research emphasizes data collection through fieldwork methods like participant observation in order to represent and analyze cultural patterns and perspectives. Other methods included the following:

  • The four project sites were compared to similar parks and libraries as controls for the quantitative measures.
  • The evaluator used the Aesthetic Perspectives: Attributes of Excellence in Arts for Change framework to understand what contributed to the success of these projects.

Impacts & Lessons Learned

  • The projects at the two park sites successfully reduced the incidence of graffiti, but insufficient data made it impossible to evaluate the two library sites.
  • All four of the artworks had attributes that helped them meet project goals. These included openness, communal meaning, sensory experience, risk-taking, and cultural integrity. Openness and communal meaning are especially important in creating a feeling of community ownership.
  • The embedded approach allowed the evaluator to weigh the use of administrative data as evaluation data and to create meaningful collaborations with artists, municipal liaisons, and the people impacted.
  • Community members interpreted the installation of artwork at these public facilities as positive investment in their neighborhoods and as signs that the government cares about their community.