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This Is Creative Placemaking

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

by Dan Brady, Communications Manager

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers (ABAG) Annual Meeting at the Walters Art Museum in downtown Baltimore. The keynote address by ArtPlace America's Executive Director Jamie Bennett introduced the idea of "Creative Placemaking" to ABAG's membership.

ArtPlace America (ArtPlace) is a ten-year collaboration among a number of foundations, federal agencies, and financial institutions that works to position arts and culture as a core sector of comprehensive community planning and development in order to help strengthen the social, physical, and economic fabric of communities. ArtPlace focuses its work on creative placemaking, which describes projects in which art plays an intentional and integrated role in place-based community planning and development.

Here's Jamie to explain:

Throught its National Grants Program, ArtPlace invests in creative placemaking projects where the arts play a central role in a community’s planning and development strategies. As big community planning projects come together, ArtPlace works to ensure that arts and culture are represented at the table alongside sectors like housing and transportation. 

ArtPlace has found that successful creative placemaking projects do four things:

  • Define a community based in geography, such as a block, a neighborhood, a city, or a region
  • Articulate a change the group of people living and working in that community would like to see
  • Propose an arts-based intervention to help achieve that change
  • Develop a way to know whether the change occurred

What does that look like in practice? Here's Jamie again with an example from St. Paul, Minnesota:

This place-based focused may sound familiar to our audiences as regional associations, too, are focused on strengthening communities across America. While ArtPlace focuses on arts interventions for local communities, regional associations promote the growth and effectiveness of philanthropy to a similar end. Through communities of learning, convenings of grantmakers, and communicating with with regional policymakers and stakeholders, regional associations create philanthropic interventions to solve local challenges.

Ultimately, the regionally defined approach championed by ArtPlace and regional associations such as ABAG lead to real, positive change in our communities. As Jamie said in his presentation, the "creative" part of "creative placemaking" is an adverb describing the making, not the place. Creative solutions are what's needed to address today's challenges. Given recent events, no one understands that more than the citizens of Baltimore. In her closing remarks, ABAG President Celeste Amato offered this encouragement to the city's philanthropic organizations and creative placemakers:

Over these past weeks we’ve talked a lot about how to engage disconnected youth but I would challenge us to start right now with friends and colleagues. Let’s give ourselves permission to share our personal hurts, fears and misconceptions and begin to sweep them away.

This Association and all of the wonderful, truly caring people who dedicate themselves to sharing their talents, expertise and good fortune across this State, are uniquely positioned to be a lasting witness to this moment and a powerful voice to help transform it into a movement – a sustained conversation that we do not allow to wane.

Within our ABAG membership, there is experience and knowledge to be mined. This is a time for us to come together, to share what we know and acknowledge what we don’t know about solving the persistent disparities that challenge not just our city, but our state and our country.

My hope is that our City becomes a catalyst to drive the hard conversations that begin to set us all free and moving forward together.

You can read a full transcript of Celeste's remarks here, a clarion call to return to our regionally-focused work with new vision and vigor and to harness the creativity that already exists in our neighborhoods to create stronger and ever-improving communities.