An auto shop in Hyattsville is painted with a mural by Oxon Hill resident Juan Pineda, who applied to be part of the Street Art Initiative. (Juan Pineda)

What can you create with $500?

That’s what Hyattsville Community Development Corp. officials are asking area artists, as they seek to add public art to businesses in the Gateway Arts District of Hyattsville, Mount Rainier, Brentwood and North Brentwood.

The group’s Street Art Initiative plans to partner artists and business owners on five small art pieces on the exterior walls of businesses in each of the four jurisdictions in the arts district to help reduce the amount of blight in the area, said Stuart Eisenberg, executive director of the Hyattsville CDC.

“If you can beautify something, it takes away from blight,” Eisenberg said. “Art escapes and transcends so many boundaries and makes the business and the property more appealing by saying, ‘We care.’ ”

The CDC has a $10,000 budget for the project that came from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Division of the Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation, Eisenberg said. As a starting point, each artist will be paid $500 to work with a business partner, but that number could increase if business owners want to put in more money or if the Hyattsville CDC attracts more sponsors to the project, he said.

A call for applications from artists for participation in the program started Nov. 13 and has a Dec. 21 deadline. A jury panel set up by the CDC will select artists based partly on proven reliability and demonstrated capacity for art. Participating businesses will review those selections and choose a partner.

Eisenberg said he knows of businesses that are interested in the initiative, but he would not disclose any information about them. He said he hopes the work will be complete by mid-spring.

Juan Pineda, a visual artist who lives in Oxon Hill, said he applied to be part of the program.

“It’s amazing,” Pineda said of the program. “I am glad that they are actually recognizing what the art can do to the community.”

Pineda, 36, who grew up in Hyattsville and worked on numerous art projects in the city, such as a public artwork he completed on an auto shop on Baltimore Avenue, questioned the $500 payment.

“I sell a canvas for $500,” he said. “I really don’t know what scale they are referring to, but for an average mural you are looking at about $3,000 to $5,000.”

Matthew Gifford, a visual artist from Upper Marlboro, said that he planned to apply for the program and thought that the $500 pay would not deter artists from applying.

“It can get people interested,” Gifford said. “Five-hundred dollars is a lot for me, and the money would be worth it if I can figure it out with my time.”

Eisenberg said there is no set standard for how large or expansive each artwork is going to be. He said the cost of supplies will be worked out with the businesses and the artists when they begin their partnerships.

“We are not attempting to force an inadequate amount for artists,” he said. “What we are saying is, ‘Here is $500, what will you do with that?’ ”

Pineda said that despite his concern, he was happy and excited about the project’s potential.

“If they listen to the artists and we can work together as a team and let them deal with logistics and let us deal with the art, it will really bring something for the city of Hyattsville and the community,” he said.