October 8, 2019

Meet the Enterprise Culture and Creativity Team!  

four people

The Enterprise Culture and Creativity team is a four-person dynamo team driving one of Enterprise’s newest priorities: leading the adoption of cultural and creative practices as a key strategy within the community development ecosystem and looking for ways Enterprise can elevate these practices in our own work.   

The team’s work started in 2017, after Nella Young, who was a program director of the Enterprise Rose Fellowship (now senior program director for Culture and Creativity), saw countless examples of how fellows used culture and creativity to accomplish unpredictable wins in the context of community development across the country.  

Based on this observation, the team first structured the Collaborative Action Grant program, giving $5,000 grants for collaborative community-based projects that often helped take an idea into reality. Lessons from that program indicated bigger potential – from seeing a developer completely shift their community engagement process after discovering that inviting the community to a block party on the site of future development eased the antagonism of the public process - to watching developers change project designs to reflect local cultural expression. 

The team’s work is built around the understanding that integrating culture and creativity into places and processes is an important, and still underutilized, tool for building communities connected to opportunity and supporting residents’ long-term well-being and success. More specifically, Enterprise sees that arts, culture, creativity, and design can be used to activate under-utilized places, generate interaction and buy-in from communities and residents, increase community pride and connectedness and spur local economies.   

Throughout 2017 and 2018, the team spearheaded the Climate and Cultural Resilience grant program to learn in partnership with local community organizations about the essential role that culture and creativity can play in developing community resilience. Investment in community resilience is often thought to be best achieved through physical measures like building levies or stormwater systems, rather than through connections between people, which are often formed through cultural activity. Dr. Meghan Venable-Thomas joined the team, providing a research background in social determinants of health and healing processes for community engagement to help shape this project. 

This year the team has been focused on integrating culture and creativity across Enterprise and developing principles that can be deployed to scale these practices across the nation. Nella Young, Frederick Zindell, Meghan Venable-Thomas, and Jody Liu are all core team members, and many others at Enterprise are working closely with them to integrate cultural and creative practices into their work.   

Meet some of the people making it happen and hear what they’re up to! 

What’s a recent accomplishment of the Culture and Creativity team that you're proud of?  

Meghan Venable-Thomas: Producing the Made to Last book, summarizing the experience of our Climate and Cultural Resilience grantees, because it is the launch pad helping to inform the principles we are developing. 

Nella Young: Expanding the Rose Fellowship, which has historically been reserved for architects and landscape architects, to include artists because of the transformative impact we see they can have in community development! We’re seeking applications for the next round of hosts. Apply to Host a Fellow

Frederick Zindell: Partnering with Cornell students to help evaluate our Collaborative Action Grant program. Identifying the right approach to how we understand our impact will help inform the future design of the program! 

Sarah Torsell (Rural and Native American Initiatives): I am most excited that the Rural partners at Enterprise were able to come together with Urban partners across the country to share their work in culture and creativity in our recent convening of culture and creativity grantees, reflecting on their experiences and lessons learned in this important piece of community development work.  

Jody Liu: Bringing Undesign the Redline to Boston. This exhibit highlights the historical effects of redlining that we are still seeing today and opens up new conversations about how to engage with communities as leaders and partners in their development. You can check it out at Boston Architectural College and the Brewery complex in Jamaica Plain.  

What’s an upcoming goal or activity of the Culture and Creativity team that you’re excited about?  

Ray Demers (Design Initiatives): Adding a cultural resilience lens to the Enterprise Green Communities Criteria integrative design section and including a new optional criterion that provides methods to advance cultural resilience and equity in the development of LIHTC projects. 

Devin Culbertson and Vrunda Vaghela (Strong Prosperous and Resilient Communities Challenge): Through the SPARCC initiative, partnering with communities to share stories and experiences focused on the impact of arts, culture, and creativity on the built environment. 

Brandon Jones (Northern California Market): Connecting local partners in San Francisco to the national framework to elevate cultural resilience practices.  

Nella Young and Meghan Venable-Thomas: Getting the message out further by speaking at the EcoDistricts Summit

Laurel Blatchford (President, Enterprise Community Partners): I’m excited for the official publication of an article on creative placemaking that I co-authored with Nella Young, which will debut this fall in a special issue of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s Community Development Innovation Review. Our piece explores the importance of culture and creativity in building resilient communities and spotlights what Enterprise has learned through our work in this space. 

For further information about our work, check out our tools and publications, and watch our Creative Placemaking webinars

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