NASAA Notes: August 2015

August 14, 2015

Partners in Place Making

The 2010 publication of the white paper Creative Placemaking gave voice to today’s nationwide movement around making the arts and culture central to community based planning and development. The paper was commissioned by the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), in partnership with the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the American Architectural Foundation. It inspired a burst of activity by public and private arts funders, alongside artists, arts organizations and agencies, all working to ensure the arts and culture are central to community planning and development.

As a result of some strategic follow-up work implemented by the NEA, doors were also opened at a number of federal agencies, creating entrée for partnerships and resourcing of creative place-making activities. Harking back to the white paper: “in creative placemaking, partners from public, private, non-profit, and community sectors strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, city, or region around arts and cultural activities. Creative placemaking animates public and private spaces, rejuvenates structures and streetscapes, improves local business viability and public safety, and brings diverse people together to celebrate, inspire, and be inspired.”

Creative Place-making Resources from NASAA

Peruse these NASAA tools designed to help manage creative place making at the state level:

For examples of state arts agency creative place-making initiatives, contact NASAA Research Director Ryan Stubbs.

The foundation world’s response was significant, led by such organizations as ArtPlace America, The Kresge Foundation, Knight Foundation and others. Arts based investments are being deployed to impact community revitalization and challenges in such areas as public safety, work-force development, social justice and housing. Simultaneously, there is ongoing testing of ways to evaluate the impact of creative place making on communities.

In the state arts agency world, leadership roles have centered around development of policies designed to cultivate creative places, certify cultural districts, provide technical and planning assistance to communities, facilitate access to state assistance, enhance the visibility of cultural districts and creative places, and foster a supportive climate for the arts and culture.

Five years after the release of Creative Placemaking, it’s also remarkable to note that interest and leadership in this realm are springing forth from unlikely places. Steeped in a desire to create engaging and vibrant places, here are several newer players in this arena:

  • The National Development Council (NDC) is the oldest national nonprofit community and economic development organization in the United States. Its purpose is to increase the flow of capital for investment, jobs and community development to underserved urban and rural areas across the country. Earlier this year, the organization presented its highly competitive, annual award for outstanding community development. The award went to Shreveport Common, a creative place-making initiative in northwestern Louisiana. The award includes participation in NDC’s Academy, the foremost professional development opportunity for the community development industry.
  • The Trust for Public Land is a national organization that creates parks and protects land to ensure healthy, livable communities. The Trust works with communities to ensure that everyone has parks, gardens and other natural places close to home. The organization is deploying creative place-making strategies that merge local planning, arts and culture to create parks that reflect local identity.
  • Created by Canadian economic development professionals, is a hub of economic development news and resources from around the world. As a community of experts, professionals and members of the public, the group engages in conversations about issues and ideas germane to economic development and its impact on people and places. Interestingly, the top 10 most viewed blog posts the year after the site launched include a piece on Assessing Impacts in Creative Placemaking as well as three posts on cultural tourism.
  • Southwest Airlines is in the game as well. Committed to the concept of place making, Southwest, in partnership with Project for Public Spaces, is investing in communities to shape and reimagine its own public spaces as the heart of its communities. Southwest partnered with MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning to publish Places in the Making: How Placemaking Builds Places and Communities. The paper explores case studies in place making generally as well as creative place making in particular.
  • In New Jersey, real estate professionals are stakeholders in this arena. Training workshops designed for real estate professionals help them become local leaders in creative place-making planning. Realtors are critical to local development efforts and have the ability to influence significant investment action in their communities. For this reason, the Center for Creative Placemaking targets for further professional development real estate specialists who are interested in creative place-making work.
  • In Iowa, Kentucky and Minnesota, Art of the Rural works across regional networks to advance creative place-making strategies. Deepening relationships and shared interests are brought to bear in creating thriving places beyond the city.

After five short years, the creative place-making arena continues to develop at a rapid pace and excitement about its potential continues to rise. Definitions within the field and approaches to the practice are varied and very much a work in progress, engaged by a widening base of interested stakeholders. These cross-sector efforts are filled with the potential to deepen the impact of the arts within communities—yet they also possess a dose of inherent chaos as diverse sectors and stakeholders work to understand each other while they strive to revitalize the places they hold dear.

As creative place making continues to evolve, it’s likely that the roles of its participants will do so as well. What might that mean for state arts agencies? As partnerships in creative place making broaden, it stands to reason that state arts agency relationships and competencies within the sector may need to broaden and diversify as well. The interconnections of the arts and community development have created a dense field of learning and partner potential; perhaps the potential benefits for the arts and communities are just as dense.

In this Issue

State to State

Legislative Update

More Notes from NASAA

From the CEO

Research on Demand




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