Artists Define Creative Placemaking

A planning colleague recently posted a question asking if anyone else was encountering some confusion between the concept of placemaking and its distinction from Creative Placemaking.  Because of this very issue, the Board at Center for Creative Placemaking (CCP) has spent the better part of five years, three of which as the former Arts Builds Community Board at Rutgers University, in making a CASE for creative placemaking in New Jersey.  The CCP team has spent countless hours discussing how to bring the merits and values of our CASE (Community Development, Arts, Social Equity, and Economic Development) to the communities, organizations, and leaders that could benefit from this approach.  Getting our message out has been a labor of passion and determination that began long before CCP’s inception.  The team’s transition from ABC to CCP has opened many more possibilities for the practice of Creative Placemaking to take hold in the state, expanding the work we began as ABC by placing a stronger emphasis on issues of social equity and the role of the artist as benefactors and leaders in the creative placemaking movement.

Our distinct approach has been validated twofold in recent weeks.  The first was the success of the CCP Forum for Professional Artists and Graduate Art and Design students facilitated by NJIT on April 13, 2015.  At this event, CCP trained artists led concurrent peer to peer learning sessions that engaged other artists in a discussion about how their unique skill sets can be applied to Creative Placemaking practices.  After the peer to peer lessons concluded, all attendees reconvened to learn about incorporating concepts and principles of Creative Placemaking into transit oriented development.  This discussion was led by Colette Santasieri, PhD., Director of Strategic Initiatives, NJ Innovation Institute/ NJ Institute of Technology.  The evening ended with an open forum for questions and answers.  CCP intends to follow-up with attendees through a survey that will help our organization evaluate the effectiveness of the training as well as advance further dialogue with these key community stakeholders.

The second validation came in the form of a New York Times article published on April 28, 2015 entitled, “Council Set to Create a Cultural Plan for New York City.”   The article goes on to describe how New York City is joining other major metropolitan US cities such as Chicago, Houston, and Denver in creating its first comprehensive cultural plan.  The City Council voted 49 to 0 on the measure, and the new plan will be used to assess cultural accessibility in neighborhoods and, “study the condition of arts organizations and artist, and plan how the city will remain artist-friendly…”   The plan will include outreach in the five borough to arts groups to help identify their needs and incorporate them into a plan.  As stated in the Times, the plan will study arts education, incorporate culture into community and economic development.

Although others may see only the need to bring planners, community organizers, developers, government officials and residents to the table, CCP continues to advocate for the inclusion of artists in all Creative Placemaking endeavors.  CCP is redirecting the conversation about the role of artists in Creative Placemaking as voice for, and the recipients of social equity in the process.  This principle, in and of itself, distinguishes Creative Placemaking from placemaking.  The creative dividend sought by communities undertaking Creative Placemaking activities can never fully be reached without the continual inclusion and presence of artists.

NJ Artists “Front and Center-Leading the Way”

Barnegat Lighthouse
Barnegat Lighthouse

Former National Endowment for the Arts Chair Rocco Landesmann is widely reputed for having fostered Creative Placemaking in the United States.  This community and economic planning approach had been practiced in Europe and Canada for years previous and Chairman Landesmann recognized its success in creating vibrant, re-vitalized, sustainable communities through intentional integration of arts and culture.  Creative Placemaking remains a cornerstone in the administration of the NEA’s current chair, Jane Chu.

Earlier this year, Jason Schupbach, NEA’s Director of Design, penned an article about the “Next 50 years of Creative Placemaking” (well worth a complete read).  In this post, Director Schupbach said that it is important “to find ways to have art-based community development practices embedded within non-arts sectors, and help the arts sector better understand community development.”

He goes on to state: “We know very few city-planning programs that teach arts-based strategies to students in the same way that they teach students the basics of transit, economic development, and real estate.  You could say the same for artists and arts managers–how many were taught anything about community organizing and engagement and/or urban and rural planning basics in school?”

Last Fall, the Center for Creative Placemaking convened a series of Think Tank sessions with NJ professional artists to explore this very idea.  We were fortunate to have the enthusiastic input of a diverse group of really smart-thinking artists from around our state:

Gianfranco Archimeded, Photographer and Director of Historic Preservation and cultural resource management for the City of Paterson

Nai-ni Chen, Founder/Director/Choreographer, Naini Chen Dance Company—Ft. Lee,

Susan Pelligrini, Video Artist—Producer/Director, Synergy Productions–Asbury Park

Maxine Roach, Grammy Award Winning Jazz Musician and violist, Current Broadway Orchestra contractor—Bloomfield

Olivia Robbins, Recent Architecture Major graduate from Howard University. Theatrical set designer and Americorps “Artist Liaison” for Valley Arts in Orange.

Elizabeth Sowell-Zak, Award winning Painter, Speaker, Artist Organizer—Long Branch

Larry Tobias, Theatre Artist Actor, Musician, Composer, Director, Writer, Producer—Montclair

Our ultimate goal was to make a case for professional artists as Creative Placemakers and to explore the training needed to qualify these individuals. We were pleased to see that we had been a bit “ahead of the curve” by the time Director Shupbach’s article appeared.

The purpose of the “Creative Placemaker Artists Forum” is to open our “think tank” conversations to a wider group of NJ artists.  We hope you will be able to join us on the evening of April 13th, from 6-9 PM at NJIT as we intend for our NJ artists to continue to be out in front in this professional development planning.

Creative Placemaker Artists Forum

Calling Professional Artists and Graduate Students Majoring in Arts or Design!!

Do you have what it takes to be a Creative Placemaker?

Want to learn more about what Creative Placemaking is and what it takes to be the Artist Leader in your community?

Hosted by Rutgers University-Newark and New Jersey Institute of Technology Theatre program, the Center for Creative Placemaking will present a 3-hour broad look at this new opportunity field for professional artists from all disciplines and graduate arts and design majors.

We’ll talk about artists engaging in a civic capacity, deliberative culture, becoming an agent of change for sustainable community growth. We’ll look at ways you can create new avenues for your art as well as a possible new professional pathway for you through social-centric entrepreneurship!

Artists Forum Event Detail

Join the CCP team and a group of your NJ professional artist colleagues with whom we’ve been exploring all of this for an evening that is sure to stretch your mind, set the wheels turning and open up a new world of possibilities for you!

Creative Placemaker Artists Forum

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