Creative placemaking is a planning process that places arts at the center of shaping the character and vitality of neighborhoods, cities, towns, and regions. It is an innovative approach to advancing the planning objectives of livability, sustainability, and equity. Creative placemaking occurs when planners, community development practitioners, artists, and others deliberately integrate art and culture into community revitalization work – placing arts at the table with land use, transportation, economic development, education, housing, infrastructure, and public safety strategies. (National Endowment for the Arts)

Creative placemaking initiatives can take the form of short-term or long-term interventions and actions. Projects can activate vacant and underutilized structures and places in the private and public realms and instigate interventions over a short-term or long-term period. Below are examples of planning projects that could be identified as creative placemaking initiatives.

  • Activation of an a town center through a schedule of cultural programming in public and private spaces that tests different creative activities and uses, such as festivals, markets, creative makerspace or gallery-performance space. Possible outcomes: Documented increase in patronage to local businesses and documented demand for the space by local residents and artists.
  • Revitalization of the local economy and a commercial corridor through public and private investments to secure affordable work space and live/work space for cultural institutions and creative businesses. Possible outcomes: Increases in local spending and cultural tourism and retention and incubation of creative businesses.
  • Development of a neighborhood plan using a community engagement process led in partnership with artists and arts organizations. Possible outcomes: Documented increase in diversity of participants in the planning process through arts engagement activities that created greater interest in and understanding of the community planning process.

Preparing to implement a creative placemaking project

Below are core elements of successful creative placemaking projects, These elements are extracted from NEA research and case studies performed for this Toolkit.

  • Focus on a defined geographic area: Creative placemaking focuses on activating spaces and places in a specific geographic area or connected areas in order to promote place-based revitalization. Identifying a specific area, e.g., a block, neighborhood, town center, transit node, or corridor in which to concentrate activities will also support the identification of clear goals, objectives, outcomes, and indicators for measuring change over time.
  • Community participation: Creative placemaking projects that have local community participation at the core of the model tend to have more success than those that are primarily preoccupied with attracting tourists from elsewhere. Creative placemaking projects should involve the meaningful engagement of local creatives including individuals artists, arts nonprofits, and creative businesses as well as a broader network of stakeholders including residents and community-based organizations invested in the activation of the space or place.
  • Cross-sector partnership: Effective implementation involves cross-sector collaboration to secure the permissions needed to implement projects in private and public spaces. Identify partners with strengths in six areas:
    • ability to build relationships across sectors (government, nonprofit, community, and for-profit);
    • ability to initiate the project with enthusiasm (the entrepreneurial initiator);
    • demonstrated understanding and commitment to the diversity and character of the place;
    • ability to mobilize the public;
    • ability to ensure active participation of arts and culture leaders; and
    • ability to attract financial and in-kind support from public and private sectors.
  • Identification of outcomes that also strengthen the creative economy: Creative placemaking projects — through process and/or outcomes — should increase local opportunities for cultural industries and cultural entrepreneurs through the creation of jobs, generation of new products and services, or the creation of conditions that promote the attracting, retention, and growth of creative businesses. The contribution of arts and culture is equally instrumental to placemaking as are job creation, revitalization of underutilized or vacant structures and spaces, and increases in commercial sales activity.
  • Clear goals, objectives, and outcomes: Discuss the goals, objectives, and outcomes of the project from the perspective of all partners. Develop a set that the partners can collectively agree upon and benchmarks for tracking progress throughout the course of the project or initiative. Objectives outcomes might include economic, physical, social impacts, such as changes in local spending at businesses, availability of affordable artist work space, and positive changes in social networks and social cohesion.

View the links below for case studies of creative placemaking projects advancing livability, sustainability, and equity objectives and view the NEA’s Creative Placemaking Report for additional case studies of creative placemaking projects. Highlights of case studies in the NEA report:

  • In Buffalo, Paducah, and Providence, vacant industrial spaces and run-down housing have been transformed into artist housing and arts workspaces, jump-starting neighborhood renewal.
  • A community development corporation and two theater companies joined forces in Cleveland?s west side to create Gordon Square Arts District, a commercial business and housing revitalizer.
  • In the early 1990s, the city of Chicago devoted a vacant downtown lot to gallery37, a workforce development program that apprenticed youth to working artists?the program soon spread throughout the city as the renamed After School Matters.
  • In Portland and Los Angeles, new transit stations incorporate public art that has been designed, with community input, to reflect the neighborhood, harnessing artistry to quicken ridership.
  • The city of Phoenix is complementing freeways and aqueducts with sculptures and artwork that softens hard edges and creates recreational space (see case study).
  • On the Fond du Lac reservation in northern Minnesota, a health care and social services manager has improved healing and community identity by commissioning and suffusing a network of dispersed buildings with native artists? work.

Sources:

Creative Placemaking. Ann Markusen, Markusen Economic Research Services, and Anne Gadwa, Metris Arts Consulting: A white paper for The Mayors’ Institute on City Design, a leadership initiative on the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the United States Conference of Mayors and American Architectural Foundation. NEA. (2010) https://www.arts.gov/publications/creative-placemaking

Defining Creative Placemaking: A Talk with Ann Markusen and Anne Gadwa Nicodemus. By Jason Schupbach. (2012) https://www.arts.gov/NEARTS/2012v3-arts-and-culture-core/defining-creative-placemaking

Creative Placemaking: Volume 10, Issue 2. Community Development Investment Review. Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. (2014) http://www.frbsf.org/community-development/publications/community-development-investment-review/2014/december/creative-placemaking/cdir-10-02-final.pdf