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Madison Gharghoury, Development Associate and Special Assistant to the President/CEO

Progress Points: Creative Placemaking

A Brief Primer

Published: January 2022


Author(s): Center for Community Progress

What would you think if you saw a railroad underpass flooded with neon lights? Or stumbled upon an abandoned liquor store turned into a community art gallery? Or encountered performance art, led by young people, on a vacant lot? Incorporating the arts into place-based community development can spark fresh interest in vacant property.

Creative placemaking is the practice of enhancing a neighborhood’s quality of life through arts, culture, and intentional community development. This practice can take varying forms including, but not limited to, temporary visual art installations, performance events, and developing permanent, brick-and-mortar spaces.

Creative placemaking is about more than just creating artistic attractions. Creative placemaking connects to the community’s identity through its arts and culture resources, and in doing so can help communities understand their past, examine their history, and together look ahead toward a most just and inclusive future.

For many communities, an examination of shared history is not easy. Community development in the United States is interwoven with racist and unjust policies that benefited some communities at the expense of others.

Why consider creative placemaking?

Creative placemaking effects change for both people and places.

People Impacts: Creative placemaking helps amplify existing community culture, refine the narrative, and improve the perception of disinvested neighborhoods. The process of engaging community through arts and culture can provide healing, hope, and inspiration that can lead to racial change, new investments, and
neighborhood pride.

Place Impacts: Creative placemaking efforts redefine purpose for vacant and abandoned properties and disinvested neighborhoods. By converting spaces from  barriers to fuel for community efficacy and cohesion, these community transformations help stimulate neighborhood pride, build wealth, and create better health
outcomes and economic opportunities for neighbors.

What are the Elements of Creative Placemaking?

The three essential elements to equitable, effective, and efficient creative placemaking efforts include:

Place-based: Creative placemaking projects always root their work in a specific place and in service to the people who give it purpose. This includes making sure  projects reflect the physical, social, and economic priorities of the community.

Connected to Local Strategies: Creative placemaking always works alongside and in concert with local strategies for housing preservation and development, economic development, and resident-serving programs.

Community-centered: Creative placemaking must engage residents, business owners, leaders, and other people who want a say in shaping a community’s future. These projects prioritize the people who experience the place in question.

Download and share this one-page explainer today.

Published: January 2022


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