2022 - 2024, Active

National Endowment for the Arts Research Lab on Commissioning Public Art Through Community Engagement Arts to improve Health, and Social / Emotional Well-Being by Reducing Youth Firearm Injury

Institute Project
Picture of People Painting Colorful Mural on a Brick Wall in a City

This research lab aims to establish and promulgate transdisciplinary research about relationships between public art and firearm injury prevention, building on a pilot study database created at the University of Michigan. The project team will investigate our hypothesis that public art can benefit communities by reducing firearm-related police incidents (and other violent crime). Preliminary results from our pilot data support the hypothesis. The research agenda is to deepen understanding of relationships between public art and firearm and other interpersonal violence; report results in new publishable research and policy briefs; conduct community engagement in Detroit via beneficial public art projects that reduce firearm incidents.


The topic area measures the benefit of public art, commissioned and produced through community engagement, in the reduction of firearm injury using Detroit as a case study.

  • How successful are public art projects made with communities in reducing firearm violence?
  • What are the characteristics of community engaged public arts projects that are successful in helping to reduce firearm violence?
  • Does following a novel “best practice” model for commissioning and producing public art with communities increase the success of such projects in reducing firearm violence?

The project approach integrates art & design, criminology, urban planning, and public health to identify the potential for commissioning and producing public artworks through community engagement as placed-based approaches to firearm violence prevention. The proposed study leverages extensive vacant lot reuse strategies already occurring on Detroit’s more than 24 square miles of vacant land that are varied in their level of community engagement. The iterative keystone study is comprises 4 connected studies:

  • A database of 2-300 public artworks in Detroit’s residential areas, compared with crime data.
  • A qualitative study to examine how the level and types of community engagement in public art may enhance the effects on firearm crime incidents compared to public art in locations with no resident engagement.
  • To commission and install 2 public artworks using our novel best practice model developed from Study 2 findings.
  • To conduct preliminary cost-benefit analyses to inform policymakers of the feasibility of commissioning community-engaged public art to reduce firearm incidents.

Project Team

Jane Prophet, PhD
Marc Zimmerman, PhD
Stephanie Tharp, BS, MID


National Endowment for the Arts

Related Projects

The Role of Art and Design in Injury Prevention

Learn about a research project led by Jane Prophet and Lia New at a presentation from the Epidemiology of Firearms and Youth Session of the FACTS Symposium 2020. The project examined thirty-nine art and design works to find patterns in them to find a typology for firearm injury prevention. The research team uncovered four major categories to examine creative work about firearm injury prevention: social commentary, social engagement, collaborative work, and design.