Community Development Investment Review

December 2014

Creative Placemaking - Volume 10, Issue 2

December 2014


Laura Callanan
Guest Editor

As a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in February 2014, I had the opportunity to share my ongoing research. I introduced them to the work of Theaster Gates—an artist turned community development catalyst on Chicago’s South Side—and the concept of “creative placemaking.” The idea for this journal evolved from those initial conversations.1

My case study on Gates was one of three focused on artists who are also social innovators. I also wrote in-depth about James Houghton, founding artistic director of Signature Theatre in New York and San Francisco’s Deborah Cullinan, executive director of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. While I had selected these three as successful arts leaders, I quickly recognized that they were all highly focused on making a difference in their communities.

Gates renovates and activates long-abandoned buildings in neighborhoods with high need and few resources. Houghton built and leads a three-theater performing arts center designed to encourage “orchestrated collisions” bringing audience, artists and staff in continuous contact; he expands who is the audience by selling affordable $25 tickets. Cullinan reimagines what it means to be a community arts center by moving out of the building and into the community, demonstrating the relevance of art to the lives of everyday people.

These three leaders were my introduction to the many ways artists and arts organizations are changing the use of public space, knitting social fabric across difference, contributing to community resiliency, and improving the economies of cities across America. This work is concrete and measurable–and, increasingly, mayors, investors and philanthropists are partners to these efforts.

This journal looks at what creative placemaking does and how it does it. We are fortunate to have perspectives from 16 organizations on the frontlines of this work, the funders and financiers supporting them, and the researchers and evaluators who are interpreting progress. We hear what this means to the broader community development field, from economists focused on communities becoming and remaining competitive, and from the mayor of San Francisco, who leads a city at the epicenter of creativity and innovation. If we are successful, this journal will reach a new audience of lenders and investors, civic leaders, and community organizations who haven’t yet heard of “creative placemaking” but will understand its potential to help their work.

As Deborah Cullinan has said, “Creativity exists in the community to solve problems. Artists don’t just solve specific problems. Artists represent our ability as a society to solve all our problems.” See if you don’t agree.

1. This journal would not have been possible without the generous help of Jamie Bennett and his team at ArtPlace America, in particular Lyz Crane and Prentice Onayemi. I am also grateful for the insights and advice shared by Jane Chu, Joan Shigekawa, and Jason Schupbach at the National Endowment for the Arts. My thanks, also, to the community development team at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, in particular Scott Turner, David Erickson, and Ian Galloway

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Table of Contents


Opportunity at the Intersection of Community Development and Creative Placemaking

A blueprint exploring the main themes in this issue of the Community Development Investment Review.

Creative Placemaking: An Interview With the Ford Foundation

An interview about creative placemaking with leaders at the Ford Foundation.

Five Roles for Arts, Culture, and Design in Economic Development

Policymakers eager to drive economic growth and innovation are increasingly turning to the arts.

Arts for the City: Community Arts and Affordability Innovations in San Francisco

Exploring the many public and private creative placemaking initiatives in the city of San Francisco.

The Meaning of the Creative Economy in Los Angeles

Highlights Los Angeles as a striking model of the creative economy and concentration of creative resources.

Creative Placemaking: How to Do It Well

Reflects on the origins of creative placemaking and how it has evolved in practice over the last four years.

Measuring the Economic and Social Impacts of Cultural Organizations

In measuring the impact of cultural organizations, there are at least three possible types of impact that should be the focus of our efforts: their economic impact, their impact on wellbeing, and their impact on local social networks.

Assessing a Set of Indicators for Creative Placemaking: Reflections From the Field

Along with the interest and growth in creative placemaking is a concomitant interest in measuring and communicating accomplishments of those efforts and sharing good practices among creative placemaking practitioners.

Financing Creative Places

Envisions the marriage of community development with local cultural organizations similar to the successful partnerships that Deutsche Bank has helped to support in New York City.

Our Town: Supporting the Arts in Communities Throughout the United States

Profiles the Our Town program and other creative placemaking initiatives supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Arts and Culture in Detroit: Central to Our Past and Our Future

Recounts the efforts of a broad partnership of civic and private institutions to preserve Detroit’s arts legacy and expand it for the future.

Creative Placemaking in Community Planning and Development: An Introduction to ArtPlace America

Explains the framework ArtPlace America uses to evaluate creative placemaking initiatives and introduces the 16 ArtPlace grantee projects subsequently profiled.

Strengthening Economic Development

Profiles four creative placemaking projects that strengthened economic development: Town Square Anchor for a Changing Skyline; REVOLVE Detroit; Irrigate; and Arts and Culture Temporiums.

Seeding Civic Engagement

Profiles four creative placemaking projects that have seeded civic engagement: Sonoran Desert Retreat Center and Residences; Great Chicago Fire Festival; and Creative Trails at the ARTery.

Building Resiliency

Profiles four creative placemaking projects that built resiliency: Prattsville Center and Artist Residency; World Garden Commons; Art and Ecology Campus at Brightwalk; and Design/Relief.

Contributing to Quality of Life

Profiles four creative placemaking projects that contributed to quality of life: SALT District; Follow the Light; Santo Domingo Heritage Trail Arts Project; and The Porch at 30th Street Station.