Giving Compass' Take:

• Artists and planners teamed up to embark on a local placemaking initiative in Washington D.C. which lead to high-quality community engagement and systems change work. 

• How can donors fund more placemaking initiatives that center around a systems change framework?

• Read more about why we need to invest in transformative placemaking. 

A few years ago, the District of Columbia Office of Planning (DCOP) launched an ambitious local government creative placemaking initiative. DCOP designed a multi-year, multi-neighborhood effort that would build community in areas experiencing rapid change. Supported by the Kresge Foundation’s Arts and Culture Local Systems Program, “Crossing the Street: Building DC’s Inclusive Future through Creative Placemaking” used arts and culture to activate space, foster conversation, promote inclusive experiences, highlight neighborhood assets, and advance planning.

Since 2010, we had been experimenting with various creative placemaking approaches, framed in early iterations as temporary urbanism. The Arts and Cultural element in the city’s 2006 Comprehensive Plan provided the basis for a follow-up study on DC’s creative economy to support creative employment and business opportunities throughout the city. While completing the Creative DC Action Agenda in 2010, we engaged curators to do a digital lab and several retail pop ups—dubbed “temporiums”—where local entrepreneurs could showcase and sell their work. With the support of ArtPlace America, we coordinated with the local arts and development community to host arts and cultural temporiums in four neighborhoods.

What became apparent as we embarked on this journey with curators, artists, and communities was the impact that an artist-municipal framework could have: planners began to think like artists, and artists began to think like planners. We also had not fully accounted for the unique lens, approach, and connections that artists make when working in a community. There are many lessons learned from our Crossing the Street, but we will focus on two distinct areas: 1) a new way to engage community; and 2) systems change. Inherent to both areas was a single underlying facet: the role of artists-municipal partnerships.

Read the full article about placemaking with planners and artists by Joshua D. Silver at ARTS Blog.