Transforming Practice

In 2019, ArtPlace was finally ready to announce a suite of activities that it believed would help continue to strengthen creative placemaking as a field and deepen its roots as a practice that lived within many players and institutions.

JAN 2019
New Field Investments
ArtPlace develops new partnership and grant opportunities in higher education, arts and culture, and local government

MAR 2019
Working Group: Agriculture and Food
Co-conveners: Farm Credit Council, Rural Coalition, DAISA Enterprises, Inc., and Resora (Albany, GA)

MAY 2019
Working Group: Immigration
Co-conveners: Welcoming America, City of Asylum Pittsburgh, and Kelly Strayhorn Theater (Pittsburgh, PA)

MAY 2019
ArtPlace Summit
The ArtPlace community gathers in Jackson

JUN 2019
LCLF Launches
Local Control, Local Fields program launches in Philadelphia, Massachusetts, and Central Appalachia

NOV 2019
Higher Education Grants
ArtPlace announces 7 investments in higher education institutions totaling $2 million

By this point, ArtPlace had done a lot of research to support its new investments. In 2018, ArtPlace worked with The Kresge Foundation, Arizona State University, and the National Endowment for the Arts to commission a fieldwide survey. The results demonstrated that creative placemaking was spreading into new sectors. The survey assessed the growth of creative placemaking in the context of Bridgespan’s Strong Field Framework, which looks at the strength of a variety of components: Shared identity Standards of practice Knowledge base Leadership and grassroots support Funding and supporting policy Sarah Calderon, managing director of ArtPlace, says, “We compared our field to other recently developed fields, such as palliative care and green buildings, to understand how they were built and how they grew” because of their very strong standards of practice.
With the survey, the organization was looking for areas in which creative placemaking was on the rise but could benefit from further support, or where it could achieve outcomes that defined a stronger field.
At the 2019 Summit in Jackson, Mississippi, ArtPlace announced that in its final years it would be undertaking a wide range of new activities. This would include more investment in each of the ten matrix sectors through its research strategies and building on the learnings from the CDI program in the community development space. ArtPlace would also be bringing a similar philosophy to advancing the creative placemaking practices of local government staff; identifying a new suite of strategies that would focus on the arts sector and artists; and partnering with higher education to disseminate resources and fund research and projects. There would also be a continued expansion of storytelling and convening work as well as providing significant resources to local regions to support their own visions for long-term creative placemaking practice. If that sounds like an ambitious plan for two years, it was.
Placemaking in Higher Education
One way to move rapidly in these new strategies was to identify partners that were ready to go. “We were looking for audiences that we knew were almost there, “ says Calderon. “The work was starting to bubble up in higher education, for example.” Calderon reached out to a number of institutions to learn what was happening on campuses with respect to creative placemaking: instruction, degree programs, scholarships, and so on.
“There were social-practice arts programs being offered,” she says. “Some of the conservatories were changing the way that they were thinking about preparing artists to go into the world; there was a shift toward understanding that artists needed to have more job opportunities when they left school. So we knew that there was intrinsic interest and motivation in higher education, and we could provide some extrinsic motivation for them to do more.” ArtPlace invited twenty-five academic institutions to submit proposals.
In the fall of 2019, ArtPlace invested $2 million in seven institutions of higher learning: Arizona State University, the Maryland Institute College of Art, The New School in New York, and the universities of Florida, Michigan, Oregon, and New Mexico. The schools had been vetted not only for their alignment with creative placemaking, but for their ability to influence the field nationally and their commitment to ArtPlace’s values of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Calderon says that she was “very impressed with the schools we chose — in particular, their thoughtfulness about pedagogy and curriculum. Especially about the prerequisites that people need before they can really grasp what creative placemaking is: understanding place, understanding arts and culture — that is, taking an expansive view of both — and equitable community planning and development.”
They approached creative placemaking in many different ways. The Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State, for instance, was funded to support the creation of concentrations and minors relevant to placemaking, and to support curriculum development and research. The university is also looking to integrate creative placemaking into degree programs and other initiatives.
The Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru), a consortium of 30 schools based at the University of Michigan and focused on connecting the arts, and art-oriented research, to wider social goals, is developing a creative placemaking hub. “We funded them,” says Calderon, “to collect resources and have them be free and available to everyone — [to have] everything that’s out there about creative placemaking in one place.”
The Indigenous Vision
And at the University of New Mexico, ArtPlace invested in the Indigenous Design and Planning Institute (iD+Pi) to help it create Engaging Indigenous Creative Placemakers — Connecting the Dots, a learning exchange that will share case studies and curricula among planning programs at the country’s Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), linking them with twenty-three ArtPlace-funded projects in Indian country.
iD+Pi was founded in 2011 by Theodore (Ted) Jojola, a Distinguished Professor at UNM and a Regents’ Professor in the Community and Regional Planning Program in the university’s School of Architecture and Planning. Jojola, an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Isleta in central New Mexico, has forged a notable career teaching, researching, and writing in the fields of architecture, planning, Native American studies, and human rights. He founded iD+Pi after being incensed by a glaring omission in an exhibition in the School of Architecture’s gallery, organized by the American Institute of Architects.
“It was supposed to be highlighting the 150 most enduring buildings in the United States,” he says. “And there was Thomas Jefferson, all that classical work, but absolutely no recognition of Indigenous architecture. I said, ‘Something is wrong here.’ The Institute was set up in order to even the playing field.”
Tribes in New Mexico and elsewhere in the Southwest are invited to draw upon the iD+Pi’s expertise and scholarship to support their planning projects. According to Jojola, Indigenous planning begins by seeing the land as a collective good to be preserved over long stretches of time, rather than a private good that changes hands. Indigenous planners take a holistic view of the communities in which they work, considering culture, spirituality, language, and landscape. And they take a long view — what the Institute calls a seven-generation planning model, taking into account the legacy and prospects of one’s great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents, oneself, and then one’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. A key point to understand is that truly significant endeavors may take more than one lifetime to complete.
“There’s a lot of responsibility placed on younger Indigenous people today,” says iD+Pi program specialist Michaela Shirley, a Diné (Navajo) tribal member from Arizona, “because we’re trying to learn about our own cultures and uphold the work and the memory of our ancestors — and that includes their sacrifice of their lives and lands. There’s an obligation to steward the land, the water, the plant life, and the animal life. But how can you protect those entities if you don’t know the places that you come from? You get at that knowledge through your culture, your identity, and your language.”
She adds that Indigenous people face multiple challenges — ”our built environment, our housing, our education, our ability to preserve and maintain our culture, traditions, and languages. Everyone has been telling us, from the outside, how we should approach these problems. The Indigenous planning theory and process is about finding those answers within ourselves.”
Chance Meetings in Seattle
The first link between the Institute and ArtPlace was forged back in 2015, when iD+Pi was granted $225,000 to continue a successful program at Zuni Pueblo in western New Mexico. The pueblo had become the first native Mainstreet community in the nation in 2012. The NM Mainstreet, an affiliate of Mainstreet America, chose iD+Pi to be the tribe’s design partner in revitalizing the local economy while preserving artistic and cultural traditions. The 2015 ArtPlace National Creative Placemaking Fund grant allowed iD+Pi to partner with the pueblo.
Jojola and Shirley were in attendance at the 2017 Summit in Seattle. Along with other grantees, they found themselves running into a number of other Native Americans who were involved with ArtPlace-supported placemaking projects. “We just sent out a call saying, hey, anybody who’s interested in Indigenous anything, we’d like to get together during one of the breaks and introduce ourselves,” Jojola says. “To our surprise, at least a couple dozen people showed up who were largely strangers to one another.”
It was a “light-bulb moment,” Jojola says. He and Shirley began thinking about how the Institute could mobilize all this Indigenous experience and expertise and connect it with the networks to which iD+Pi belonged.
They realized that, as Jojola puts it, “there’s almost a one-to-one correlation between the projects represented by the people who attended and a tribal community college nearby. That’s where the title ‘Connect the Dots’ comes from. We asked the groups doing the projects, have you been working with your tribal community colleges, and have they ever reached out to you? We’ve developed workshops on placemaking and been advisors to various regional forums of the TCUs. We tell them, you know, there are organizations that are actually applying these ideas and they are very close to you.”
A Point of Motivation
The consortium has begun with iD+Pi’s work with Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona, the oldest tribally controlled college on the continent. Jojola sees the partnership there as a two-step process. In the first year iD+Pi works directly with their newly established Bachelor of Fine Arts program in order to see how they can integrate Indigenous planning concepts into their curriculum. This will include engaging and integrating local Diné artisans into placemaking/placeknowing studios designed to empower them by formulating regional approaches that create diversified and local economies. “Then, secondly,” he says, “use them as an example for other tribal community colleges throughout the country to see whether or not they might be interested in following suit.”
Connecting the TCUs with the ArtPlace projects in their vicinity, and helping them integrate the lessons of these projects into their curricula, is academically important, says Jojola, “because it becomes a point of motivation for students. When they see their own people, their own communities, doing these kinds of things, it’s no longer an abstraction. It’s real and it’s meaningful and it can begin to pipeline them into careers oriented towards planning and development, as well as creative placemaking.”
More Lessons, More Players
Higher education wasn’t the only venue for sharing lessons and tools to transform practice. With the culmination of the Community Development Investments program, PolicyLink began releasing extensive research and documentation exploring how community development organizations could form meaningful partnerships with artists, what internal transformations organizations had to make to accommodate new work, how arts-based strategies contributed to local community organizing, and what the impact of arts-based strategies was on key community development outcomes and social fabric.
These lessons came in the form of policy briefs, strategically placed articles, conference sessions, a brand-new website ( for PolicyLink to share knowledge long-term, and a capstone publication in partnership with the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco that would serve as a seminal piece showcasing the evolution of conversations around creative placemaking from 2014 to 2019. Transforming Community Development Through Arts & Culture was released at a major event in November 2019 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, followed by a similar event in partnership with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in early 2020. These events featured a number of voices from around the field exploring the connections between arts, culture, and equitable development.
The publication also featured articles by many of ArtPlace’s other partners who were involved in further developing learning tools for the field. For example, ArtPlace’s research work in the housing sector had spurred a series of learning visits and the development of a new course at the NeighborWorks Training Institute, “Leveraging Arts and Culture for Affordable Housing and Equitable Community Development,” led by ArtPlace research associate Danya Sherman and consultant Theresa Hwang of Department of Places. The research team had also supported Enterprise Community Partners to expand its well-known Enterprise Rose Fellowship to include artists, in addition to architects and designers, as embedded fellows in community development organizations.
One other partnership that ArtPlace advanced was with the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations (NACEDA), which helped create opportunities at the biannual People & Places conference to help share lessons for community development practitioners. ArtPlace also supported NACEDA to develop a body of work with the states of Minnesota, New Jersey, and Texas to look at state policy innovations that would support creative placemaking.
Lyz Crane also began to work on documenting lessons learned from providing technical assistance to the CDI participants, much of which had happened through an ongoing partnership with the Center for Performance and Civic Practice. Dubbed the CDI Core Competencies, this framework would become useful in considering the range of knowledge and skills needed for community development entities to incorporate arts and culture.
The forays into policy, government, and skill-building around comprehensive practice were also taking place in a new suite of strategies focused on local government. ArtPlace was already investing in artists in government settings through its research partnerships in several sectors. Building on recommendations from the transportation working group, Transportation for America was facilitating artist-in-residence programs in Minnesota’s and Washington’s Departments of Transportation, the first-ever state-level artist residencies in the country. In the immigration sector, research partner Welcoming America began piloting arts-based welcoming plans across its network of local government partners committed to building cohesion among new and long-term residents.
In partnership with the national organization Civic Arts, ArtPlace formed two new relationships that would allow it to expand its support for local government staff extensively. The first, with the International City/County Management Association, would result in the creation of a new guide for creative placemaking geared toward city managers. The second, with Engaging Local Government Leaders, would develop a new resource base, content, and cohort program for local government staff interested in learning how to do creative placemaking in their own communities.
Arts Leading
ArtPlace also saw additional crucial opportunities beyond higher education to invest in the most important players of all in creative placemaking: artists and the systems that support them. With so much of their focus over the years on driving demand in the community development side of the equation, 2019 represented a chance to double down on the arts side with two big announcements in the fall.
The first of these investments was in ioby, a national crowdfunding platform dedicated to community development and social change with a strong commitment to racial equity (the name stands for "in our backyards"). Knowing that there were many artists across the country who already had a strong practice of community-based work, Leila Tamari worked with ioby to match up to $15,000 for crowdfunded projects led by artists addressing community issues. The Artists Lead! initiative was both an opportunity to get more resources directly to artists and a chance for ioby to build out its capacity to support artists doing community work.
Tamari also stewarded a new partnership with the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA). Dubbed Strengthening the State Arts Agency Support System for Creative Placemaking, this collaborative initiative supported research and convenings aimed at the exchange of ideas about community development and placemaking among state arts agencies and related stakeholders.
The plan called for NASAA to write a resource guide full of tips on how to support creative placemaking by tapping into resources from the housing, rural development, and economic development sectors. ArtPlace and NASAA also agreed to facilitate conversations and connections between the state arts agencies and other bodies devoted to community development and creative placemaking, including with NACEDA, which was also looking at state policy.
“The arts agencies themselves, along with their communities of artists, arts organizations, and local arts agencies, have tremendous influence and power that will fundamentally shape the future of this field,” said ArtPlace’s Leila Tamari when the initiative was announced.
The new Local Control, Local Fields initiative also commenced in 2019. With so many new programs and projects underway by the end of 2019, ArtPlace was poised for a busy final year — but no one could have anticipated what 2020 would have in store.
At PolicyLink we work with lots of partners, so it would not have been unusual to co-sponsor an event with the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. But a four-hour gala of eclectic artistic performances, provocative dialogues, and the audience of several hundred at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts dancing to close it out, and an only slightly smaller event two months later at the imposing headquarters of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York? That could only happen with ArtPlace America.
These gatherings launched the 2019 theme issue of the SF Fed’s journal, Community Development Innovation Review, in which twenty-five authors — theater directors, foundation presidents, Indigenous traditional artists, bankers, architects, planners, and people from many other backgrounds — described and reflected on the Community Development Investments initiative, which was created by ArtPlace and documented by PolicyLink. The cultural and geographic diversity of the CDI communities embodied ArtPlace’s commitment to tribal, rural, and urban places; and the candor, cooperation, and generosity we have experienced from the grantees and their collaborators validated ArtPlace’s goal of establishing a peer learning cohort that generated genuine lessons for the field. We should perhaps make that fields, plural, because another of ArtPlace’s key intentions has been to reach a broad array of distinct audiences of people in a position to make significant change.
This was our year to reach those leaders at their events, through their magazines and online channels, through social media, and via our website and publications. So we shared what we had learned with community developers, public health leaders, parks advocates, arts organization managers, social investors, and people in many other sectors. Communicating in many dialects is harder than speaking in just one, but it is well worth it and exactly what this inter-sectoral, multicultural, interdisciplinary field of arts, culture, and equitable development needs.
— Victor Rubin and Jeremy Liu
Victor Rubin, MCP, PhD, an urban planning researcher, consultant, and teacher, is a Senior Fellow at PolicyLink, a national nonprofit institute advancing policy change for economic and racial equity. He leads the documentation of ArtPlace America’s Community Development Investments.
Jeremy Liu is a Senior Fellow at PolicyLink, where he guides a national initiative to integrate arts, culture, and creative placemaking into policy change and equitable development. He is the former executive director of two community development corporations and a practicing artist.