Manholes As Destination Tourism (Seriously)

In answer to the perennial question about how the arts can show their value to the community, I came across an answer/inspiration in the form of the Flickr group, Japanese Manhole Covers. There are nearly 3000 pictures of some amazingly artistic manhole covers.

With NYC looking to ban big sugary drinks and Disney announcing that they will restrict junk food ads, it occurs to me that a constructive approach to fighting obesity would be to commission these artists to make manhole covers.

People would get out and start walking around in an attempt to see them all. Heck, people may even include a manhole tour as part of their tourism. I am sure someone will develop a social media app that maps out the locations and people would compete to check in at each of them on sites like Foursquare. (Actually, looks like there is an iphone app for Japan.) Just to keep things interesting, the public works department can switch them around every so often so that people would have to contribute to a remapping effort.

Check out the Japanese covers, some of them are pretty amazing and show a lot of investment and pride in culture and community.

(Clicking on image will take you to the specific photographer’s page rather than the larger pool of manhole photos)

Osaka Castle Artwork on Manhole cover - Osaka, Japan
Osaka Castle Artwork on Manhole cover photo credit: Neerav Blatt

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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