Art-Force ProgramSiler City, NC
Cross-Currents of Production : Artists + Manufacturers Strengthening Place
ArtPlace spoke with Janet Kagan and Jean Greer, Principals of the Public Art Collaborative Art-Force Program, an innovative effort to diversify economic development in rural counties by curating and partnering artists with manufacturers to generate core products and stimulate a community’s social and economic connection to place.
ArtPlace: What ideas did you gain or lessons did you learn from the ArtPlace Creative Placemaking Summit?
Kagan + Greer: What we all know is that vibrant and colorful cities evolve over decades of public and private investment and leadership. ArtPlace leverages and accelerates urban and rural efforts to emphasize the power of the arts to explode and realize creative growth.
The private sector and philanthropy drive demonstrative economic change, and lead or assist elected officials and government through needed policy and structural frameworks to develop and refine programs and projects at the street. James Anderson and Anita Contini of Bloomberg Philanthropies created an Ideas Innovation Camp that exposed municipal teams to urban experts and technical assistance coaches in a context that refined ideas, strategized, and built capacity to think differently.
As we experienced in Miami’s Wynwood District, the strategy and impulse of Tony Goldman transformed space almost overnight. Urgent to advance an outlying neighborhood’s public appeal with the arts as its beacon, he invited internationally recognized visual artists to rebrand a generic warehouse district with their distinct technicolor ideas and forms. The result is panoramic siting of facade canvases within courtyards and on the streets, creating a theater and stage for public gatherings and events.
Sustainability of initiatives is a critical goal. Terms articulated for future thought : “creating the capacity to innovate,” “unimaginable spaces for innovation,” “rethinking underutilized assets,” and “conceptualizing value in a new way.”
Urban and Rural Connections
The connection of urban centers to adjacent rural communities should be recognized and valued. It is the natural resources of farms, forests, water supplies, and the committed workforce and their inventions that provide core life products forming the essence and genesis of healthy cities and vibrancy. We learned about community art interventions in rural areas that attract tourists. As we looked for intersections with our work, we are ever mindful of the artistic products being invented and the jobs created in order to stabilize and grow place – different strategies for commerce.
A Lexicon for Creative Placemaking
While Miami’s former Mayor Manny Diaz challenged us for a simplified vocabulary of place-making, there was tacit understanding that our charge is complex and vast, and our collective focus is multi-disciplinary and multi-layered. These efforts, programs, and projects are grounded and intertwined among the disciplines of art, design, planning, architecture, landscape architecture, economics, community development, private interests, and public policy. These transactions and site transformations within cities and towns have been happening for decades within the disciplines of urban design and public art.
All creative placemaking that is genuine is local in origin. To that end, the vocabularies and syntax of Summit participants substantiate this assertion because each person spoke from vastly different perspectives, experiences, and presumptions. More specifically, this was because the projects represented a broad reach of initiatives: from social entrepreneurship to project/program partnerships, and from institutional consortiums to funding-stimulated and results-oriented efforts. Geography knew no restraint! We also noticed the rebranding of titles for directors, municipal officers, and foundation staff (such as the Philadelphia Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy) that further redefines leadership priorities and evaluation in a new way. For our part, we are trying to invent a fresh vocabulary for placemaking that reflects and captures the rural context of our work and can easily be understood, absorbed, and applied.