Mother and Daughter Team Create Art from Kansas City’s Budget

July 13, 2015 12:00 pm PST | Data Apps & Visualization, Data as a Service
Art of Data

As showcased in a post last week, the Art of Data exhibit in Kansas City presented artists who humanized city datasets into works of art. The datasets, which provided the inspiration to the artists, were based on statistics like life expectancy by zip code and the city’s homicide rate.

Kansas City’s Director of Communications Chris Hernandez had this to say about the event: “Feedback from the community has been really interesting and helpful. It was so gratifying to see the turnout on opening night. As part of the First Friday celebration, we had an estimated three thousand people through the gallery. We clearly achieved the goal of engaging people out in the community, because we had people learning about and thinking about the City who would never attend an actual public hearing or City meeting.

“Our vision included having people randomly walk in and suddenly find themselves engaging with the City, and that did happen. I know a state senator from our neighboring state of Kansas who walked in. As we exchanged greetings, he asked why I was wearing a name tag. When I explained the exhibit that the City had put together, he was literally stunned, and said, We’d never get this many people to a budget hearing.”

Each week, we’re dedicating a blog post to one artist, their city dataset(s) of choice, and the story behind their resulting pieces. 

Featured artists: Rebecca Tombaugh & Rachelle Hodgson

Title: An Illustration of Community Outcomes

The datasets transformed into art by Tombaugh and Hodgson:

Rebecca and Rachelle are a mother and daughter team of artist and analyst. The underlying blueprint in this painting organizes the 2015-2016 submitted budget by community outcomes, with the size and shape of each segment representing the city’s investment in that category. You will see a majority of government spending goes towards public safety and that there was a decline in spending for neighborhoods and communities.

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An Illustration of Community Outcomes

The blueprint then takes patterns from around Kansas City, and uses them to represent key metrics from the KC Stat Dashboard. Rebecca and Rachelle chose to use real blueprint paper because it feels so thin and easily damaged, reflecting the uncertainty of Kansas City’s future. 

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Rebecca Tombaugh & Rachelle Hodgson

The artists wanted us to see and feel the reality of the lives affected by investment decisions, so just as the patterns in their blueprint are pulled from every life in Kansas City, the inking pulls real people from everyday life as they pause for a moment while waiting for the bus.

They humanized the numbers by painting a colorful scene from an actual metro bus stop. The bus stop is all of “us” who are waiting and watching down the road for decisions, and wondering when it will arrive and take us home.

Take a look at this video to see Rachelle and Rebecca in their own words.


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