The concept of “creative placemaking” is a fast-growing trend, inside and outside the art world. Essentially, it means engaging the community by using arts, culture and design to quickly and creatively improve a public place.
Two recent acts of creative placemaking haven’t gone so well. A community group made some improvements to a public plaza at the intersection of Euclid and Imperial in Encanto, but did so without proper city permits and have been told they have to remove the planter boxes and other amenities they added.
In Barrio Logan, a Realtor group organized an event where volunteers were tasked with building benches and planter boxes on Logan Avenue. But when it came time to close the area to traffic for an evening to celebrate the upgrades, the people who live and work in the neighborhood protested the event, calling the effort misguided and an intrusion.
Matt D’Arrigo, founder and CEO of youth arts education center A Reason To Survive, or ARTS, said his organization is gearing up to embark on a large creative placemaking effort in National City, where it’s based. He said the two recent community improvement projects seemed well-intended, but believes both failed “due to not engaging in the right process.”
“We’re striving to show the correct process,” he said. “It’s interesting that one project didn’t include the government in the planning and the other didn’t include the community in the planning. You need both working together side by side through the whole process in order for this to work.”
Starting next year, D’Arrigo and ARTS will launch an effort to create 30 public art projects within three square miles of its National City location over the next three years. D’Arrigo said his careful approach began with the creation of a group of government officials, local business owners, community leaders and others who’ll act in an advisory role helping ARTS navigate possible pitfalls. D’Arrigo said he also sends project leaders to trainings at the Pomegranate Center located outside of Seattle. (The Pomegranate Center has been practicing creative placemaking for decades – before creative placemaking was cool.)
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"... blame artists for going into under-served urban neighborhoods, prettying things up and making the ‘hoods seem cool, thereby attracting developers who suddenly see potential and build expensive projects that drive up prices and push longtime residents out."
People like that would blame a butterfly for being beautiful. Hey, the artists aren't to blame for the developers -- The Developers are. Keep the artists, don't sell to "The Developers." If YOUR neighbor sells to "The Developers," blame HIM.