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.