November 9, 2017

8 Reasons to Do Creative Placemaking

Join Enterprise and representatives from PUSH Buffalo, Madison Park Development Corporation, and Northshore Community Development Corporation on November 15th for an online panel discussion that explores how arts, culture, creativity, and design can improve communities.

Since the launch of the Collaborative Action Grant program, Enterprise has been learning the value that building social cohesion can bring to a community. Through creative placemaking efforts, community development corporations across the country have been able to leverage engagement and involvement amongst residents.

As Mickey Northcutt, executive director of North Shore CDC says: “While tactics like door knocking are still important in civic engagement, often only a narrow slice of the population is responsive to this. We try to think of more creative ways to get people involved in their community.”

Through our research, we have homed in on eight reasons why to do creative placemaking. 

  1. Creative Placemaking Builds Trust 
    By integrating cultural and creative tactics, CDC’s can tap into the soul of their communities and build trust with residents. It is both a long game and a project-level investment.
  2. Creative Placemaking Builds Social Cohesion
    Neighborhood events and art help form and strengthen community identity and build stronger relationships and social networks—key assets of resilient communities
  3. Creative Placemaking Gets People Engaged
    The arts are an especially successful tool for engaging youth who are less likely to participate by traditional means.
    Photo from PUSH Buffalo
  4. Creative Placemaking Protects Your Neighborhood Identity
    Artists and culture bearers can “lift up the stories of existing stakeholders by using creative storytelling techniques,” says Chris Appleton, executive director of Atlanta arts organization WonderRoot. Proactively investing in this can help resist for-profit real estate speculation that seeks to displace existing residents.
  5. Creative Placemaking Can Counteract NIMBYism Investing in arts and culture demonstrates to residents that beauty and expression are valuable to a community developer. This serves as a promise to maintain and care for properties
  6. Creative Placemaking Creates Buzz 
    Arts and culture draw attention—especially from developers, media and elected officials. That attention can be used to generate buy-in and support for more holistic efforts.
  7. Creative Placemaking Can Change Neighborhood Perception and Make Places Feel More Safe
    Arts can attract interest and investment into your neighborhood. Public art, creative urban design and cultural programming can make a space feel more safe or vibrant and invite more pass-through traffic
  8. Creative Placemaking Can Spur Economic Development
    Safer neighborhoods can drive up foot traffic, supporting local businesses. Investing in cultural assets, hiring local creatives, and providing a platform for artists and culture bearers to engage with community issues can also support their role in the neighborhood and the larger creative economy.


PUSH Buffalo is a community development organization on the west side of Buffalo, N.Y. They combine housing development with community organizing and social enterprise to build local economic opportunities, greener communities, and resident ownership of resources. Using the arts to inform cultural identity is core to their business. It has allowed the organization to leverage the community's assets in the face of gentrification and strengthened their political message.

Madison Park Development Corporation's use of arts was key in its effort to revitalize Boston's Roxbury neighborhood. Through the acquisition of Hibernian Hall in 2000, they were able to build community trust and credibility through theater, music, dance and educational programming. As development continues to take place in the neighborhood, the relationships that Madison Park has formed with community residents and city authorities have influenced future projects.  

Read the full report, "Building Community Resilience Through Placemaking," supported with generous funding from the Surdna Foundation and additional support from the Kresge Foundation.

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