Cultural Planning

Cultural planning is a place-based planning process that generates a vision and action plan for strengthening and growing arts and culture assets. The planning process provides an opportunity for jurisdictions to:

  • expand and enhance artistic and cultural opportunities for the arts/creative community and the broader community
  • strengthen, leverage, and integrate artistic and cultural resources across all facets of local government to creatively advance broader objectives in the areas of economic prosperity, social equity, the environment, and cultural vitality.

Cultural plans may include goals and strategies that address topics including: social cohesion; community engagement; arts and culture programming; services for the creative community; cultural economic development; cultural facilities development; and funding for arts and culture, including permanent or temporary public art and programming.

Types of Cultural Plans

Cultural plans can vary in scope depending on the goals and objectives of the planning process. Cultural plans may be government-led or community-led. Types of cultural plans include:

  • Comprehensive Cultural Plan: Defines a broad set of goals and strategies that may align with other defined community needs and opportunities in other topic areas (e.g., economic development) and provides a framework for more specific cultural planning work that will occur in the future
  • Discipline-Focused Cultural Plan: Defines a set of goals and strategies focused on a specific arts sector, e.g., the visual arts
  • Cultural Asset Mapping: An inventory and analysis of a community artistic and cultural resources and needs; this is typically the first phase of any cultural planning processes
  • Specialized Arts or Cultural Assessment: An assessment with a specific focus, e.g., a feasibility study, an economic impact assessment, a market study pertaining to cultural tourism potential
  • Specialized Arts and Culture Issue Plan or Study: Defines goals and strategies pertaining to a specific issue, such as audience development
  • Cultural District Plan: Defines a set of goals and strategies pertaining to a specific geographic area within a community, e.g., a neighborhood or town center
  • Arts and Culture Component of a Municipal or Regional Plan: Defines a set of arts and culture goals and strategies as part of a broader comprehensive or master plan; embedded as a section or chapter (vertical integration) and/or integrated as a strategy supportive of other plan priorities, e.g., land use, transportation, environment (horizontal integration)

Components of a Cultural Planning Process

A comprehensive cultural planning process typically includes:

  • establishing a leadership team to inform plan development, outreach, and engagement;
  • conducting an inventory and assessment of key findings: individuals, organizations, institutions, and other arts and culture assets on public and private land; and
  • developing a community vision and action plan, and identifying resources needed to implement the vision.


The process to develop a cultural plan often includes the establishment of committees, working groups, and/or task forces that will assist with data collection and outreach and engagement to produce the plan components. A cultural plan working group may be established and include government staff from different departments and agencies including representatives from the community, including business owners, artists, and arts organizations.

Conducting an inventory and assessment

Cultural assessment involves qualitative and quantitative data analysis of arts and culture strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This component of work involves an inventory of relevant studies and plans that may pertain to arts and culture; an assessment of arts and culture needs and opportunities identified by the artist community and the broader community; and the identification and mapping of tangible and intangible cultural assets. See cultural asset mapping for more information.

Developing a vision and action plan

Development of a vision and action plan is informed by the outreach and engagement process. The action plan will include identification of strategies and actions to strengthen arts and culture resources, and establish a governance model to monitor and assess progress in implementing the plan, e.g., ongoing cultural mapping, and a funding plan to promote implementation.


Examples of Cultural Plans