Community Development


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. Public art can be embedded into infrastructure and catalyze community development.


Why it's Relevant to Planners

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 power of convening, facilitating, planning, and policy-making to generate buy-in to the process and ensure quality results for embedding art into public infrastructure and public space.


How can planners use arts and culture to build community?

Planners can tap artists and use artistic practices in their own work to varying degrees to develop community in myriad ways.

Visit our Creative Community Engagement page to learn more.


Financing Community Development

Community development activities can be achieved by a variety of municipal departments and community leaders who may tap into a wide range of funding streams.

Visit our Funding page to learn more.


Community Development Activated by Artists and Culture Bearers

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:


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.

Additional Resources

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.

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

Knight Soul of the Community (SOTC) is a three-year study conducted by Gallup of the 26 John S. and James L. Knight Foundation communities across the United States employing a fresh approach to determine the factors that attach residents to their communities and the role of community attachment in an area’s economic growth and well-being. The study focuses on the emotional side of the connection between residents and their communities.

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.

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 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.