Lowell Folk Festival 1

Do voters care about creative placemaking?

Creative placemaking is highly collaborative work requiring active public/private partnerships to marshal the resources, will, and energy to change a street, neighborhood, or city.  State and local governments need to work with artists, entrepreneurs, and community and business leaders to advance successful projects.  Creative placemaking requires broad community support, especially from the voters who not only determine the outcomes of elections, but the public agenda that follows.

Developing a more nuanced understanding of how voters perceive the impact of art and cultural programming on civic life, how they view the impact of the cultural economy on local economic development, and their willingness to support public arts programs and the associated funding, helps us understand the opportunities and obstacles community leaders face in developing creative placemaking projects.  In order to accurately describe the political environment surrounding creative placemaking, MassINC surveyed 600 registered voters in the 11 Gateway Cities on the following broad themes (click here to view the poll):

  1. Views of government funding of arts and culture events, activities, and infrastructure
  2. Personal participation in arts and culture events and activities
  3. Views on how arts and culture affect the quality of life

The results suggest that both the image and the social fabric of a city can be improved with well thought out investments in arts and culture.  Those who participate in the events that are occurring in the Gateway Cities see a better quality of life than those who do not. Many meet new friends at these events, or connect with others they already knew.

The poll reveals a public who sees the arts as a way to bring new businesses to their cities, improve the cities’ image, and provide educational opportunities for children.  The majority see the benefits of public arts funding accruing to all sectors of society rather than just the wealthy, as is sometimes claimed.  As a result of these perceived benefits, support for public funding for arts and culture is high.  In short, at least in Massachusetts, our poll shows that there is a strong level of support for creative placemaking from Gateway City voters.

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