Welcome to the Research Lab @ CURRENT:LA Water

A comprehensive social impact evaluation of L.A.’s first public art biennial was conducted by an innovative coalition of researchers from Kamella Tate Associates, LLC, and the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education.

The Research Lab, led by Principal Investigator Dr. Kamella Tate in partnership with Rossier’s Dr. Kenneth Yates, explored and documented how CURRENT:LA Water worked to enable public participation and generate civic discourse around critical issues.

What can CURRENT:LA Water tell us about how social practice public art contributes to community livability and individual well-being while changing people’s understanding of the places where they live?


How do we tell the story of CURRENT:LA Water in a way that pays tribute to the initiative’s complexity while remaining manageable and intelligible? Complexity – several degrees away from merely complicated – implies levels of emergence, unpredictability, and adaptivity not seen in something that simply has many moving parts. How, then, to identify and draw out the themes and threads that lead to understanding of what happened, what worked and why, and what’s next?

Our aim in this Casebook is to unfold the process and progress of our inquiry. From questions, frameworks, instruments, and findings to achievements, stumbles, and strengths.

CURRENT:LA Water was . . . 

current16_researchlabpresent1cover. . . a social practice public art initiative comprising high quality artworks, public programming, and virtual platforms located in and connected by the CITY.

At the heart of CURRENT:LA Water were the PEOPLE – artists, visitors, and supporters. In our investigation, we used community contexts to frame questions from the perspective of individuals.

We developed our suite of social impact evaluation tools to measure both outputs (artworks, attendance, social media) and outcomes (social capital, cultural value, awareness), while capturing evidence of promising practices and demonstrating the viability and replicability of the CURRENT:LA Water model.
Click to view our introductory slidepack


The findings presented here include the confirmatory, the explanatory, and the speculative. While defined as a social impact evaluation, stakeholders expressed tangential interest in a number of constructs and topics, from attendance and social media to economic impacts and artistic excellence.

A manageable overview, plus notes on the entire Casebook.

OK, We’re Going For It! Public Art as Collective Practice We reviewed the literature on high-performing teams in order to better understand the hows and whys of what worked and what didn’t. Includes a theory-informed management model designed to improve the effectiveness of teams and workgroups.

Publications and links that informed our work, as well as others that provoked discussion and contributed to ideas for future engagement.


The Research Lab in the news . . .

Honoring Co-PIs Drs. Tate and Yates with Certificates of Recognition from Mayor Eric Garcetti is Department of Cultural Affairs General Manager Danielle Brazell and DCA Public Art Division Director Felicia Filer.

The partnership between Kamella Tate Associates, LLC, and USC’s Rossier School of Education was the first of its kind for the DCA – a business-academic coalition conceived to test the proposition that public art can catalyze “. . . a significant shift in the way LA integrates Arts, Culture, and Creativity into the civic fabric of the lives of Angelenos.”