Sunday, August 14, 2011

Banners for Tree Planting, But Who Pays for Banners?

We recently received a press release from the District Department of Transportation (DDoT) announcing a program to post banners downtown promoting the planting of urban trees. Don't get us wrong --we're all for more urban trees. But we really prefer to have our taxpayer dollars go into planting trees, rather than for banners for planting trees.

The trouble is, you can't tell from either the press release or the websites found in the press release just who is paying for the banners. They're the product of The Urban Forest Project, a partnership of DDoT, the Downtown DC Business Improvement District (BID), the American Institute of Graphic Design (AIGA), the Corcoran School of Art, World Studio Projects, and the US Forest Service.

Click on the link to the banners: They're all colorful and nicely done, and will brighten up downtown while sending a "green" message. We just wish for more transparency amid all this greenery. We would like to be informed how much is each partner's share of the green trees publicity campaign. We'd be very happy if it turned out, for example, that the Downtown BID was bearing much or all of the cost of hanging the banners, as downtown beautification is central to that organization's mission, and it's privately funded by its member businesses.

We'd also like to know if the art students who designed the banners contributed their work for free. It certainly would be good if they did. It would make good sense for each partner organization to be credited for its specific contribution to the project, whether in kind or in cash. And it should be a relatively simply matter to include this sort of budget information on the The Urban Forest Project's website.  Instead, the sponsors are simply named and there are clickable links to their websites.

There's also an artsy Youtube video, created by AIGA, featuring one of the banner designers chatting about her involvement in the project (including what she likes for breakfast); we don't know if that was created as a donation or was funded by DC taxpayer dollars.

Here's what we do know: "Seed funding for the project was provided through a grant from the USDA Forest Service. Additional funding was provided by DDOT and the DowntownDC BID." The full text is in the press release below.

But it's not enough, in our opinion.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Urban Forest Project Plants Unique Street Banners in Downtown DC

100 Street Banners Designed by Local Artists, Designers and Students Now On Display
Banners Depict Powerful Visual Statements about Environmental Sustainability

(Washington, D.C.) One hundred unique street banners now hang from city light poles throughout downtown DC, as part of a public arts and environmental initiative known as the Urban Forest Project. Each banner uses the form of, or metaphor for, a tree to make powerful, often humorous, visual statements about the environment. They create a forest of thoughtful images in the heart of the nation's capitol to promote a cleaner, greener and more sustainable city.

This project is being presented in Washington by the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), in collaboration with the Corcoran College of Art and Design, AIGA DC and is sponsored by the Downtown DC Business Improvement District’s ecoDistrict program.

This innovative project –similar to efforts in several other cities - was adapted to raise public awareness about greening and tree planting initiatives in DC.

“We hope this project will highlight the importance of growing a healthy urban tree canopy and draw attention to the excellent work done day in and day out by our Urban Forestry Administration,” said DDOT Director Terry Bellamy. “Trees in an urban setting require great care and we need businesses and residents to partner with us to ensure that trees survive.”

“The DowntownDC BID is pleased to be a co-sponsor of the Urban Forest banner project because it provides a visual reminder to visitors, workers and residents that sustainability is something that we’re working on every day in the core of the city,” said Richard H. Bradley, the DowntownDC BID’s Executive Director.

Many of the 100 banners on display were designed by local high school and college students. More information about the artists and the banners is available on the project website at

To see and hear some of the artists talk about the inspiration behind their banners, visit

Seed funding for the project was provided through a grant from the USDA Forest Service. Additional funding was provided by DDOT and the DowntownDC BID.

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