NASAA Notes: November 2016

November
2016

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Pam Breaux

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November 5, 2016

Urban + Rural Cultural Placemaking

In its new report, Culture: Urban Future – Global Report on Culture for Sustainable Urban Development, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) makes the case for culture as key to sustainable urban development and encourages city planning efforts that bring creativity and culture to bear in promoting diverse, safe and thriving cities. With more than half of the world’s population living within cities, the report sets forth that people-centered cities should be culture-centered spaces, quality built and natural environments should be shaped by culture, and sustainable cities require integrated policymaking that includes culture.

Certainly this kind of thinking isn’t new; these principles are core to the practice of creative placemaking, and related activities are happening in both urban and rural communities across America and the world. UNESCO’s report lauds the importance of this work, equipped with 111 case studies from across the globe, 6 of which include communities within the United States. In addition to validating creative placemaking through its international lens, UNESCO sets forth 12 concrete strategies for using culture within sustainable development.

“People-centered cities are culture-centered spaces” illuminates the idea that humanizing cities through culture can’t be unattended; it is productive work, and its importance shouldn’t be underestimated. Developing places for the well-being of people must include attention to livability and embodying a sense of identity and belonging. This is definitely a space where policies and planning that include cultural assets can contribute prominently to community well-being and potentially to a sense of harmony. We see this sort of thinking fueling creative placemaking efforts in urban centers and in rural communities. (Speaking of rural communities, it will be exciting to see the policy recommendations that are brought forward from the recent national convening, Next Generation: The Future of Arts & Culture Placemaking in Rural America.)

What’s most distinct about the UNESCO report is that it makes the case for the importance of linking urban and rural communities through culturally based development. Productive urban-rural and regional planning and development are frequently employed in economic development, though less so in cultural development. That is beginning to change, as culture increasingly becomes more embedded within community planning. As the creative placemaking field matures, will we see the cultural community more greatly emphasize connecting urban and rural communities through its work? Given current social and political divides between urban and rural America, a special opportunity undoubtedly exists for the arts and culture to encourage much-needed connectivity.

There’s a great deal of learning happening in the creative placemaking field, and that will surely continue to benefit urban and rural efforts. UNESCO, the National Endowment for the Arts, ArtPlace America and Art of the Rural are a few of our colleagues advancing this work. As we continue to progress this work in our field, let’s not leave out of the equation that connecting urban and rural America as a distinct strategy can benefit the entire country, and at a time we may need it most.

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From the CEO

State to State

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Research on Demand

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