Art, Community Development, and Infrastructure

Community development seeks to improve the quality of life at a local-scale through projects that engage residents, leverage local assets, and address local needs. Civic engagement, economic development, housing construction and rehabilitation, infrastructure improvements, health and wellness programs, youth programs, workforce development, homeowner assistance, and public safety, are among the range of traditional community development activities.

Artists and community leaders working at the intersection of arts, culture, and community development have been experimenting with how to leverage the creative powers of arts and culture without the costs of displacement. The best of this work highlights the ways that arts and culture can transform underserved neighborhoods into hubs of creativity and vitality through processes that build strong partnerships across arts organizations, community-based organizations, and government entities. Work at the intersection of arts, culture and community development illuminates how to address the following community development priorities:

Learn More!


CommunityDevelopmentLandingGraphic Building Social Capital

Community development organizations and actors can help connect artists to community residents and help them produce socially engaged art that highlights and addresses community priorities. They can also use arts activities to directly engage community members and increase engagement in community planning and development activities. This interaction helps create the relationships necessary to ensure that communities access and benefit from successful creative placemaking activities.

Enhancing Public Safety

A variety of projects at the intersection of arts, culture, and community development explore the potential for arts, culture, and creativity to enhance public safety – channeling energies into the arts, building stronger relationships among communities and law enforcement, changing the ways that public space is used, and changing the set of opportunities available to the recently incarcerated.

Spurring Neighborhood Revitalization

Work at the intersection of arts, culture, and community development demonstrates the power of community-led neighborhood revitalization and the potential for that revitalization to strengthen a community's sense of ownership over its public realm.

Preserving Historic and Cultural Heritage

Many community development professionals have integrated arts and culture into their public realm through adding artistic and cultural elements into streetscape improvements, celebrating local history and cultural heritage through creative events, and through commissioning public art that reflects local history and cultural identities.

Examples of creative placemaking that connect multiple priorities can create deep and lasting local impacts, elevate community visibility, and create new funding opportunities to meet local community development needs.

Art in the public realm intersects with the built environment in both expected and novel ways. It can react to current conditions, arise from public- and private-sector led revitalization and redevelopment, and engage with the civic issues of our time. Art in the public realm can take many forms from site-specific projects in 2D and 3D like murals and sculptures, to platform-based works such as temporary art on screens or in festivals and performances, to expanded-site works that use elements which travel through places as a jumping off point for creative expression.

Local governments, organizations, and residents may generate public art because they recognize its effectiveness in enhancing public space and enacting public planning and development goals. The work may take many forms, and be funded through various means, but in order for it to be effective there should be clear mechanisms in place to bring the project about, to navigate it through the permitting process, and to ensure that it is maintained during its lifetime — be it temporary or permanent. Planners can play a key role in helping to bring various departments together (such as Department of Public Works, Public Safety, Transportation, Parks, etc.), and can use their convening, facilitating, planning, and policy-making skills to build knowledge about public art best practices in order to ensure quality process and quality results for embedding art into public infrastructure and public space.


National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Exploring Our Town Projects Database

Browse the creative placemaking projects that have been funded through the NEA’s Our Town grant program. Browse by geography and by insights — process, setting, and type.

ArtPlace America Projects Database

Browse the projects that have been funded through the National Creative Placemaking Fund and the Community Development Investments Fund.

Creative Placemaking Report for the Mayors Institute on City Design

Ann Markusen’s influential report on creative placemaking includes a trove of case studies from different parts of the country.

Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Community Development Investment Review on Creative Placemaking

This journal looks at what creative placemaking does and how it does it and represents the perspectives of 16 organizations on the frontlines of this work, the funders and financiers supporting them, and the researchers and evaluators who are interpreting progress.

Springboard for the Arts’ Irrigate Toolkit

Irrigate was a 3-year creative placemaking initiative that trained artists as community organizers and leaders, facilitated partnerships between artists and businesses, and funded small scale arts projects. This toolkit provides step-by-step guidance in creating partnerships, connecting with local artists, training workshops and evaluation, as well as templates for budgets and timelines for projects at different scales. This toolkit is included in the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Resilient Cities Initiative.

The Scenic Route: Getting Started with Creative Placemaking and Transportation

The Transportation for America creative placemaking guide introduces the field of practice to transportation planners, public works agencies and local elected officials who are on the front lines of advancing transportation projects. The guide provides introductions to eight dimensions of a creative placemaking practice in transportation and each section is grounded in examples of projects in action.