While spending time here at the San Francisco Federal Reserve as a visiting scholar, Laura Callanan introduced us to a hidden world of practitioners transforming their communities through the arts—the world of “creative placemaking.”
Creative placemakers use the arts to “activate” places: storefronts, trails, abandoned railways, town centers, and main streets. As Jamie Bennett, executive director of ArtPlace America, writes in this issue: “In creative placemaking, ‘creative’ is an adverb describing the making, not an adjective describing the place. Successful creative placemaking is not be quantified by how many new arts centers, galleries, or cultural districts are built. Rather, its success is measured in the ways artists, formal and informal arts spaces, and creative interventions contribute toward community outcomes.”
Laura’s introduction to this new world got me thinking about the world that I usually occupy: community development. In this world, unfortunately, “community” is not an adverb describing the development; it’s more often an adjective describing the physical places where we work. This is no small thing. The community development industry continues to favor brick-and-mortar solutions, like affordable housing, over “soft” solutions like early childhood education. The result is more funding for real estate development and less for human capital alternatives. Thankfully, that may change thanks to the arts. Creative placemaking could be the bridge that finally moves the community development industry to, in the words of Nancy Andrews in a previous issue of this journal, the “nexus of people and place.”1
This issue of the Community Development Investment Review explores creative placemaking: what it is, how it’s done, how it’s measured, funded, and experienced. The issue is divided into two parts. The first is composed of a series of articles written by practitioners, academics, and leaders in the creative placemaking field. The second profiles 16 ArtPlace America grantees. These profiles explain how creative placemaking actually works in the field.
As guest editor, Laura was the driving force behind this issue of the Review. I’m very grateful for her partnership and her willingness to so generously share her time, networks, and ideas with the community development team here at the San Francisco Federal Reserve.2
1. Nancy O. Andrews and Christopher Kramer, “Coming Out as a Human Capitalist: Community Development at the Nexus of People and Place,” Community Development Investment Review, Vol 5, Issue 3, (2009).
2. My thanks also to David Erickson, Scott Turner, and the rest of my colleagues at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco; Jamie Bennett, Prentice Onayemi, and Lyz Crane at ArtPlace America (and Louis Gulino for his independent consulting work); Tom DeCaigny, San Francisco Arts Commission; Jason Schupbach at the National Endowment for the Arts; Deborah Cullinan, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; and Barbara Ray and her team at HiredPen. This journal would not have been possible with their generous support.