Creative Placemaking

Creative placemaking brings together partners from public, private, non-profit, and community sectors to strategically shape the physical and social character of a public space through arts and cultural activities that encourage public discourse, neighborhood development, community health and safety, social justice, economic growth, environmental sustainability, civic pride, and an authentic “sense of place.” [1]

How It’s Developing

Creative placemaking and the general idea of “placemaking” finds it roots in the work of urban thinkers like Jane Jacobs (The Death and Life of Great American Cities), Kevin Lynch (The Image of the City), and William Whyte who proposed ways to design and program public spaces by putting people and communities ahead of efficiency and aesthetics. [2] Central to this move toward “placemaking” was the acknowledgement that communities needed an overarching, multipronged approach to improving the aesthetics, safety, and social feel of a place. [3

The current focus on creative placemaking was advanced by the creation of ArtPlace. In 2009, Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), brought together ten philanthropic organizations, six banks, and five federal agencies to invest time, money, and resources, to demonstrate the arts’ importance in community development. [4] In the same way that ArtPlace leveraged government, business, and non-profit support, the community grants that ArtPlace funded utilized a cross-sector orientation to find new possibilities for using arts and culture for community and economic development. [5]

Creative placemaking projects build strong, healthy, and resilient communities and drive social change by integrating the arts into broader community revitalization and placemaking efforts. [6] Projects can work to address negative social trends like housing vacancy, or accelerate positive trends like providing community members with higher-paying jobs – they can also pursue less prescriptive but still beneficial outcomes like increasing conversation or improving community interaction. [7] The resulting activities can range from art and mural installations that beautify neighborhoods (mmmm…’s BUS), to events and gatherings that bring different neighborhood residents together (500 Plates), to the installation of temporary galleries or spaces (Höweler and Yoon Architecture's Swing Time) that help people experience a new service.    

Creative placemaking has led to the popularity of pop-up approaches for both government, non-profit, and business organizations. While pop-ups can create an art space in an otherwise underutilized area, they may not always fulfill the community goals of creative-placemaking – even as they provide a valuable option to test ideas and provide proof of potential. [8

Why It Matters

Creative placemaking promotes several values that resonate with libraries and library professionals – equity, arts and culture, creativity, community engagement, partnerships, and stewardship. [9]

One of the most obvious values creative placemaking advances is the sense of place, transforming spaces that might not be particularly inviting or personal into places that are attractive, convey meaning, and build and sustain memories. [10] For many community members and throughout our history, libraries have provided a place that creates meaning and memory. Creative placemaking could be a new strategy for continuing this focus for libraries, but it could also help other spaces provide similar, and sometimes competing, value. 

Even if creative placemaking is not a formal part of a community’s plan, the success and popularity of these projects could move civic leaders to expand their discussions of community development to include the arts and place as much as traditional services like transportation, sanitation, parks and recreation, or education. [11]

For many, the truly transformational essence of this trend is in the process of making. Creative placemaking requires a community process, including deliberative discussion and collaboration that results in community empowerment and a new sense of identity and relationship to neighbors [12] This supports the general movement to placing the community as the expert – while artists are involved, they are not exclusively in control, and the ultimate outcome is not simply a completed work of public art, but a newly collaborative, engaged community and network of stakeholders. [13]    

After process and the creation of space, creative placemaking activities often require programming to sustain “continuous placemaking” that benefits the community even after the designers are gone. [14]

As creative placemaking seeks to engage individuals across communities, it will need to be observant of diversity, equity, and inclusion, leveraging cultural competence in community discussions, acknowledging diverse hierarchies of values and privilege, and integrating differences to meet the needs and interests of all community members. [15]    

Creative placemaking will refocus attention on partnerships, including cross-sector and public/private partnerships that could challenge current regulatory standards and mix public ownership and private resources. [16]

Creative placemaking activities have economic implications. Most activities will require funding, but could also result in economic benefits to the community – as activities become more popular, there could be competition for funding, artists and creatives, and audiences as well as concern for the changing affordability of areas as projects transform and popularize. [17] Creative placemaking can also support entrepreneurs and cultural industries, spark new products, create markets for new services, and attract and retain businesses and skilled workers. [18]     

Creative placemaking could advance other trends, including resilience. By focusing attention on the arts and culture, creative placemaking helps ensure that community leaders include the perspectives of artists, creatives, and neighborhood residents in their decision-making, therefore ensuring that when changes do occur, the community is aligned to respond in a collective way that leaves fewer members behind. [19

Notes and Resources

[1] "Creative placemaking." Ann Markusen and Anne Gadwa. National Endowment for the Arts [A White Paper for The Mayors’ Institute on City Design, a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the United States Conference of Mayors and American Architectural Foundation]. 2010. Available from https://www.arts.gov/sites/default/files/CreativePlacemaking-Paper.pdf

and

“Places in the making: How placemaking builds places and communities.” Susan Silberberg, Katie Lorah, Rebecca Disbrow, and Anna Muessig. MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning. 2013. Available from https://dusp.mit.edu/sites/dusp.mit.edu/files/attachments/project/mit-dusp-places-in-the-making.pdf

[2] “Places in the making: How placemaking builds places and communities.” Susan Silberberg, Katie Lorah, Rebecca Disbrow, and Anna Muessig. MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning. 2013. Available from https://dusp.mit.edu/sites/dusp.mit.edu/files/attachments/project/mit-dusp-places-in-the-making.pdf

[3] "Everything you ever wanted to know about creative placemaking." LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) Stories. June 30, 2016. Available from http://www.lisc.org/our-stories/story/creative-placemaking-q-and-a   

[4] "Creative placemaking: What it is and why it’s important for communities." Aidan Flax-Clark. The Aspen Institute. October 31, 2014. Available from https://www.aspeninstitute.org/blog-posts/creative-placemaking-what-it-why-its-important-communities/

[5] "Creative placemaking 101 for community developers." Anne Gadwa Nicodemus. LISC Institute for Comprehensive Community Development. May 27, 2014. Available from http://www.instituteccd.org/news/5014

[6] "Creative communities and arts-based placemaking." Project for Public Spaces. June 13, 2015. Available from https://www.pps.org/reference/creative-communities-and-arts-based-placem...

[7] "Breaking down creative placemaking." The Kresge Foundation. April 19, 2016. Available from http://kresge.org/library/breaking-down-creative-placemaking

[8] "Has Philly hit peak pop-up? Vacant lots, valet parking lanes - and, now, The Median" Samantha Melamed. The Philadelphia Enquirer. July 27, 2017. Available from http://www.philly.com/philly/home/has-philly-hit-peak-pop-up-vacant-lots-valet-parking-lanes-and-now-the-median-20170727.html

[9] "Creative placemaking - Creating parks, expressing culture, strengthening communities." The Trust for Public Lands. Available from https://www.tpl.org/our-work/creative-placemaking#sm.000128z5bc13oef4fygm2fuy60u2f

[10] "Breaking down creative placemaking." The Kresge Foundation. April 19, 2016. Available from http://kresge.org/library/breaking-down-creative-placemaking

[11] "Creative placemaking: What it is and why it’s important for communities." Aidan Flax-Clark. The Aspen Institute. October 31, 2014. Available from https://www.aspeninstitute.org/blog-posts/creative-placemaking-what-it-why-its-important-communities/

[12] “Places in the making: How placemaking builds places and communities.” Susan Silberberg, Katie Lorah, Rebecca Disbrow, and Anna Muessig. MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning. 2013. Available from https://dusp.mit.edu/sites/dusp.mit.edu/files/attachments/project/mit-dusp-places-in-the-making.pdf

[13] "Creative communities and arts-based placemaking." Project for Public Spaces. June 13, 2015. Available from https://www.pps.org/reference/creative-communities-and-arts-based-placem...

and

"Creative placemaking: Rethinking the role of arts and culture in strengthening communities." Rip Rapson. Address to the League of Historic American Theaters Conference. July 18, 2013. Available from http://kresge.org/library/creative-placemaking-rethinking-role-arts-and-culture-strengthening-communities

[14] “Places in the making: How placemaking builds places and communities.” Susan Silberberg, Katie Lorah, Rebecca Disbrow, and Anna Muessig. MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning. 2013. Available from https://dusp.mit.edu/sites/dusp.mit.edu/files/attachments/project/mit-dusp-places-in-the-making.pdf

[15] "Creative placemaking: Integrating community, cultural and economic development." Leonardo Vazquez.  The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking. March 2012, Updated November 2012. Available from http://togethernorthjersey.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Creative-placemaking-integrating-CCED.pdf

[16] “Places in the making: How placemaking builds places and communities.” Susan Silberberg, Katie Lorah, Rebecca Disbrow, and Anna Muessig. MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning. 2013. Available from https://dusp.mit.edu/sites/dusp.mit.edu/files/attachments/project/mit-dusp-places-in-the-making.pdf

[17] "Creative placemaking: Integrating community, cultural and economic development." Leonardo Vazquez.  The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking. March 2012, Updated November 2012. Available from http://togethernorthjersey.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Creative-placemaking-integrating-CCED.pdf

[18] "Creative placemaking." Ann Markusen and Anne Gadwa. National Endowment for the Arts [A White Paper for The Mayors’ Institute on City Design, a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the United States Conference of Mayors and American Architectural Foundation]. 2010. Available from https://www.arts.gov/sites/default/files/CreativePlacemaking-Paper.pdf

[19] "Putting the arts to work for city resilience: Creative placemaking." Jason Schupbach. 100 Resilient Cities. March 3, 2015. Available from http://www.100resilientcities.org/putting-the-arts-to-work-for-city-resilience-creative-placemaking/