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Glass House Collective is a Chattanooga-based non-profit founded to bring life back to Glass Street and Glass Street back to life. GHC gathers talent from in and around the community to develop creative projects of all kinds with the ultimate goal of revitalizing the historic Glass Street commercial corridor.

Glass House Collective’s Director Katherine Currin and Director of Communications & Outreach Teal Thibaud traveled to Miami for ArtPlace America’s inaugural conference this January. ArtPlace spoke with Glass House Collective’s team about their experience:

ARTPLACE: Where does the creative placemaking movement go next?

Currin: The creative placemaking movement has so much potential right now. It’s time to take a strategic look at the work that’s been done, the current national context, and chart a deliberative and impactful course for its future.

76 creative placemaking projects have been the recipient of more than $25 million in funding from ArtPlace America. The projects themselves are in rural and urban communities, high and low income neighborhoods, and almost every corner of the country. The vibrancy indicators will allow us to measure the return on these investments. Knowing what’s working and what isn’t working means the future of the creative placemaking movement can be both intentional and increasingly impactful. That’s really exciting.

The fact of the matter is, we can do more together than we could ever do apart. ArtPlace America’s founding partners get that. To expand and strengthen this movement, it’s important to create opportunities for conversation about our work – the work each of us are doing and the work we have to do together.

Personally, I’d like to propose we band together to ‘cease and desist’ the placement of the red squiggly line under ‘placemaking’ in Microsoft Word. Who’s with me?

ARTPLACE: What ideas did you gain or lessons did you learn that you plan to apply to your initiative?

Currin: The arts are a fulcrum for collaboration. We know this – we do, but that doesn’t make it easy. Our time spent listening and learning from other placemakers during the ArtPlace conference helped us gain a deeper understand of how it happens and, more importantly, how it can happen on Glass Street.

Here’s a short list of the folks and ideas/comments that inspired/intrigued us:

James Anderson, Bloomberg Philanthropies – we can accomplish collective impact through shared vision, clarity about roles, lines of communication, and networked governance

Jeremy Nowak, J Nowak & Associates – to connect the arts with other fields, we have to create a narrative that’s going to have traction beyond talking to ourselves.

Eric Avner, Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation – we should cross-promote the good examples of placemaking happening in other cities.

Gayle Isa, Asian Arts Initiative – a community resource team comprised of residents and business owners in a neighborhood fosters ownership of a community renewal and/or cultural development process. Team members should be compensated for their time and service.

Colin Hamilton, Artspace – projects may take 4 to 6 years which means trust in the leader and excitement about the effort will be challenged, because over time core truths change (budgets and partners) and that creates a guarded culture internally.

Anita Contini, Bloomberg Philanthropies – to gain traction, its important that your message also come from people with a voice in the community.

Sven Huseby; Educational Foundation of America – the arts can become a gateway to outdoor recreation and environmental education, driving conservation and appreciation for the natural world to change behaviors so that we act and innovate in ways that allow us to prosper and thrive in the face of global environmental challenges.

ARTPLACE: What new opportunities for your initiative did you identify from conversations with other creative placemakers?

Currin: We heard that the arts can all-too-often be a ‘wine and cheese party,’ i.e. not for everyone. But if the arts and individual artists can help address some of our community’s most pressing challenges, why should they be confined to a ‘wine and cheese party’? The answer is: they shouldn’t. Through placemaking, Glass House invites artists to employ their artistic and creative talents for the betterment of this community, i.e. for everyone.

Through our work here on Glass Street, we have a unique opportunity to inform and inspire more placemaking efforts in unexpected places.

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