Creative Placemaking = Arts Integration

Lead with Arts unearths community stories to create a distinct sense of place and highlight local assets for strong economic development strategies.

Work with Lead with Arts:

  • Creative placemaking project consultation and project management
  • Network engagement with artists and other creative workforce professionals
  • Design and development of urban and rural collective impact projects
  • Community-centered movement and dance performance, workshops and happenings
  • City/Town Master Plan support

Creative Placemaking = Artists + Locals Focused on Community Outcomes

The National Consortium of Creative Placemaking offers a comprehensive and excellent definition of placemaking:

“Creative placemaking happens when artists and arts organizations join their neighbors in shaping their community’s future, working together on place-based community outcomes. It’s not necessarily focused on making places more creative; it’s about creatively addressing challenges and opportunities. Success is measured in the way’s artists, formal and informal arts spaces, and creative interventions have contributed toward community outcomes. We believe creative placemaking at its best is locally defined and informed and about the people who live, work, and play in a place.”

Placemaking Challenges

Placemaking, as a name, is cumbersome as we typically do not make places as we don’t control nature. Instead, we activate revitalization or economic development plans in our villages, towns and cities that augment or rearrange the landscape. That sometimes causes tension between native peoples and “outsiders,” whose priorities and values are different. Similarly, we fall prey to deficit-based narratives, especially of our rural spaces, that motivate quick-fix actions in communities that would benefit from a more empathetic approach to planning and development.

Placemaking Solutions

Our creative placemaking strategies take into account positionality, the underlying bias of each organization or partner to understand their distinct roles, such as an insider (part of the community fabric) versus an outsider (a visitor or consultant). Prioritizing what it means to be part of the community and who is in it encourages planning models for good civic engagement and empathetic economic development. Ultimately, this work engages more people because there are more voices at the table.

Creative placemaking begins with making space for people to tell their own stories.

If we probe history, we can see that communities have given away the right to town growth and aesthetics to planners and designers. Creative placemaking encourages aesthetic justice, making room for cultural relevance (the stories of the people) in every design and in every future plan. It leverages the storytelling skills of artists and arts organizations to excite cross-sector innovation, spurring people of all walks of life to take care and action in projects related to infrastructure, economic development, sustainability, housing, food security, revitalization and more.

Where to begin?

Gaining a deep understanding of what assets already exist in the community is a great place to start. Look for opportunities to build on existing assets to showcase their strengths. You can overcome challenges by sharing values between insiders and outsiders that guide planning and development initiatives for strong, engaged communities: places where people want to live, work and play.

Process is key

As Creative placemaking reveals, the arts are a great public and private sector investment. We see the power of creative workforce as an economic driver. In a report published by the National Endowment for the Arts and U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, arts and culture contribute $804.2 billion to the U.S. economy, 4.3% of GDP. That’s a larger contribution than the tourism, transportation or construction sectors.

According to “Rural Prosperity Through the Arts and Culture: A Rural Action Guide for Governors and States,” a creative workforce is the lynchpin for rural prosperity, providing solutions for economic challenges, outmigration and gaps in education to name a few.  Arts are also powerful civic catalysts as they are mediums to identify cultural legacy through heritage preservation that develop a deep sense of place.

The arts are inclusive and accessible as they belong to all people stretching across every demographic of age, ethnicity and socio-economic class.