Transforming Community Development through Arts and Culture

Volume 14, Issue 2 | November 13, 2019

This issue of the Community Development Innovation Review explores the power of arts and culture to transform the practice of community development. Published in partnership with ArtPlace America and PolicyLink, this issue takes a deep dive into the lessons learned from the Community Development Investments program and offers reflections from industry leaders on the implications for the broader community development field.  The diverse range of authors includes artists, community developers, bankers, and researchers, and their collective voices frame a rich conversation on how openness to the creative process can help community development organizations better achieve their mission of expanding opportunity for low-income communities.

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Article Citation

Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. 2019. “Transforming Community Development through Arts and Culture,” Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Community Development Innovation Review 2019-2. doi: 10.24148/cdir2019-02

Table of Contents


Laura Choi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco


Lyz Crane, ArtPlace America


Jeremy Liu & Victor Rubin, PolicyLink

How Organizations Evolve When Community Development Embraces Arts and Culture

Victor Rubin, PolicyLink

The integration of arts into community development has taken root and changed the ways community development organizations strategize across culture and leadership. This article explores how internal restructuring can support the deep incorporation of arts and culture into the daily fabric of the organization.

Arts and Culture from the Inside, Not Just on the Outside

daniel johnson, Significant Developments

On its journey to integrate arts and culture into its core operations and connect more deeply with visitors and area residents, the Jackson Medical Mall discovered that its staff was its most impactful cultural asset.

“The Way We Work”: Integrating Arts and Culture into an Organization

Ashley Hanson, Department of Public Transformation

A rural theater artist partners with Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership and highlights the value of trusting the creative process, taking risks, and investing the necessary time.

Dialogue on Organizational Growth and Change

Erica Reed and Mahalia Wright, Jackson Medical Mall Foundation; Chelsea Alger and Ashley Hanson, Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership; Facilitated by Victor Rubin, PolicyLink

This conversation explores how the integration of artistic practice into community development efforts spurred personal transformation and organizational growth and change.

Building Capacity for Creative Community Development

Paul Singh, NeighborWorks America

NeighborWorks America is building capacity within community development nonprofits by expanding its training, outcome evaluation, and peer learning offerings to more fully support work at the intersection of arts and community development.

Lessons on Collaborative Practice between Artists and Community Developers

Alexis Stephens, PolicyLink

This essay examines how community developers designed collaborative practices between their organizations and artists, from bringing creative expressions of local history to new audiences, to facilitating internal strategic planning.

The Connection between Public Space and Cultural Resources: Reflections on our work in Strawberry Mansion

Martha O’Connell, Keir Johnston, Ernel Martinez, and Linda Fernandez, Amber Art and Design

Community-driven, arts-based facilitation, in partnership with community development organizations, can grow in impact. A holistic process rooted in the arts helped transform an underutilized park into a community space that fosters dialogue and relationship-building.

Mimes and Road Construction: An Unlikely Partnership for Community Investment

Enzina Marrari, Kendall|Marrari

What might happen if unlikely partners came together to solve a problem and had room to experiment? MimeSpenard, a creative placemaking project that took place in Anchorage, Alaska answered these questions in black and white. With, well, a pop of red.

Dialogue on Working with Artists

Adela Park and Ellen Ryan, Fairmount Park Conservancy; Candace Blas and Sezy Gerow-Hanson, Cook Inlet Housing Authority; Facilitated by Alexis Stephens, PolicyLink

This conversation explores the dynamics and practical realities of collaborative practice between community development organizations and artists.

Culture and Creativity Are Fundamental to Resilient Communities

Laurel Blatchford and Nella Young, Enterprise Community Partners

Community development strategies that honor cultural identity and facilitate creative expression—often led by artists, designers, and culture bearers—can increase social cohesion and resilience.

Outcomes in Communities of Arts and Cultural Strategies: The Role of Organizing and Engagement

Jeremy Liu and Lorrie Chang, PolicyLink

The integration of arts and culture into the processes of community development organizing and engagement transformed the scope of organizational outcomes.

Ibasho: A Place of Belonging1

Scott Oshima, Japanese American Cultural and Community Center

Sustainable Little Tokyo’s project ART@341FSN demonstrates the power of artists and arts-based strategies in advocating for Little Tokyo’s culture, history, and future.

From Zuni Art to The Sky is the Limit!

Daryl Shack, Sr.

An artist’s journey to help center Zuni culture in the design, building, and programming of a park and community center, in the process, transformed and empowered a community to shape their future.

Dialogue on Organizing and Strengthening Social Fabric

Grant Sunoo and Dominique Miller, Little Tokyo Service Center; Tom Faber and Joseph Claunch, Zuni Youth Enrichment Project; Facilitated by Lorrie Chang, PolicyLink

An exploration of how strengthening the social fabric and promoting the cultural identity of communities can advance progress toward youth development and neighborhood preservation.

Integrating Arts and Culture into Community Development to Improve Outcomes

Maurice Jones, Local Initiatives Support Corporation

Arts and cultural strategies can innovatively address challenges with social cohesion, spur economic development, and produce positive effects in the built environment that benefit current residents.

Creating Process for Change

Michael Rohd, Rebecca Martínez, Soneela Nankani, Sara Sawicki, and Shannon Scrofano, Center for Performance and Civic Practice

A theater script that reflects on creative process and shares lessons learned from working with community development organizations and arts practitioners across fields and geographies.

Leading Change: Reflections from Chief Executives of CDI Organizations

Carol Gore, Cook Inlet Housing Authority; Dean Matsubayashi, Little Tokyo Service Center; Primus Wheeler, Jackson Medical Mall Foundation; Joseph Claunch, Zuni Youth Enrichment Project; Jamie Gauthier, Fairmount Parks Conservancy; Kristie Blankenship, Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership; Facilitated by Jamie Bennett, ArtPlace America

Leaders reflect on what motivated them to incorporate arts and cultural strategies into their agencies, how it changed their approach to leadership, and the differences it made for their communities.

Community History, Identity, and Social Change: Reflections from Researchers on the Potential of Arts & Culture

Chris Johnson and Tina Takemoto, California College of the Arts; Mindy Fullilove, The New School; Jennifer Scott, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum and University of Illinois, Chicago; Michael Rios, University of California, Davis; Facilitated by Victor Rubin and Jeremy Liu, PolicyLink

Researchers from diverse disciplinary backgrounds take stock of how we could advance the systematic understanding of the role of arts and culture in community development and social movements through research.

Multiple Ways of Knowing: Translating Outcomes Between the Arts and Community Development

Jamie Hand, ArtPlace America

This article reflects on the history of research in creative placemaking and lessons learned from ArtPlace’s ongoing research strategies.

Creative Placemaking in Government: Past and Future

Mary Anne Carter, National Endowment for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts celebrates 10 years of strengthening communities across America through investments and support of creative placemaking projects.

State Policy Innovations to Support Creative Placemaking

Kelly Barsdate and Ryan Stubbs, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies; Frank Woodruff and Jeremy Brownlee, National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations

Innovations at the intersection of cultural and community development policy can create the conditions for successful creative placemaking work.

Do I Need Special Glasses? Seeing Arts and Culture as Part of Community Development for Financial Institutions

Deborah Kasemeyer, Northern Trust

An exploration into various ways financial institutions can support investments into arts and culture by aligning them with community development frameworks and institutions.

CultureBank: A Vision for a New Investment System

Deborah Cullinan, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; Penelope Douglas, CultureBank

Arts organizations should focus on developing the conditions for new futures to emerge. As a society, we must value the essential role the artist plays as a key collaborator in community investment.

Widening the Lens: Arts, Culture, and an Equitable Future for All Communities

Michael McAfee, PolicyLink; Rip Rapson, Kresge Foundation

Michael McAfee, president and CEO of PolicyLink, and Rip Rapson, president and CEO of the Kresge Foundation and Chair of the Funders Council of ArtPlace America, explore why arts and culture strategies are central to equitable development and racial justice.