ArtCenter Project Aims at Building Mutual Trust Between Long Beach Police, Residents

Unusual Collaboration Aims to Bridge Divide Between Diverse Communities and Law Enforcement

Published : Monday, February 12, 2018 | 8:33 PM

Pasadena’s ArtCenter College of Design has received a $30,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for a project aiming to build mutual trust and cooperation between the Long Beach Police Department and Long Beach residents.

The project, themed Building Trust, Bridging Divides: Visual Communication for Diverse Communities and Their Police, will kick off in May, co-led by ArtCenter and the City of Long Beach — California’s seventh-largest and one of the nation’s most diverse cities.

With the $30,000 NEA grant, the partners will use graphic design principles to improve communication between police departments and the diverse communities they serve, and particularly address misperceptions between law enforcement and the citizenry.

The project brings together senior-level design students and faculty with two critical constituencies: a police department and community advocacy groups. Leading the ArtCenter team are Tyrone Drake, associate professor, and Jennifer May, director of the College’s Designmatters department, an international initiative that has been leading design for social impact education for more than 15 years.

“We’re exhilarated to partner with Long Beach Police Department to find solutions to a nationwide problem,” Drake said of the partnership. “This is a vivid example of how art and design may possibly affect a community’s well-being, feelings of safety and help law enforcement professionals work more effectively.”

Leading the Long Beach department team is Chief of Police Robert Luna.

“This innovative partnership with ArtCenter College of Design provides the Police Department with a tremendous opportunity to enhance communications with the residents that we serve,” Luna said. “The graphic design strategies and social media tools developed through this partnership will assist us in showing the human side of policing, while continuing to build trust and respect with our community.”

Lorne M. Buchman, ArtCenter College of Design President, said the NEA recognition is a “tremendous endorsement” of the power of visual communication and how thoughtfully designed campaigns could create change and lead to improved human relations.

“This project is emblematic of ArtCenter’s ongoing commitment to use design for social innovation,” Buchman said.

The partnership will build upon findings from the 2015 President’s Task Force on Community Policing and serve as a pilot for other cities.

The ArtCenter College of Design has been partnering with the City of Long Beach since 2015. Most recently, a Designmatters project brought together experts from the City’s Department of Health and Human Services with students to address an increase in the rates of sexually transmitted diseases among residents. The topic was extensively discussed in a three-day intensive DesignStorm workshop as well as a 14-week course that looked at insights and potential solutions for communicating facts, symptoms and testing resources.

The City of Long Beach Innovation Team has also retained the services of several ArtCenter students, working as Designmatters Fellows, who worked with the team and stakeholders to develop solutions to Long Beach’s most pressing challenges by facilitating design thinking in the public sector. In Spring 2017, undergraduate student Isaúl Berenguer worked directly with City staff, community partners and leaders on the Harvey Milk Park Project aimed at connecting people, connecting place, and co-creating public space.

For more information on projects included in the NEA grant announcement, visit


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