Peter Haakon Thompson is a Minneapolis-based artist and the Community Development Coordinator at Springboard for the Arts. For many years, he has initiated and participated in art projects that center community engagement—some while wearing his “artist” hat, and some as an arts administrator. We asked Peter to share some examples of successful creative placemaking ventures he’s been involved with, and to give us his top tips for making the most of every collaboration.
Amid the opportunities and stressors of gentrification, and facing an existential water crisis, new and longtime residents of bucolic Bozeman, Montana, create and experience public art that amplifies their stories and brings them together. In a rapidly growing western town, indigenous and non-indigenous artists collaborate with ranchers, ecologists, and activists in a poignant performance series about the local water scarcity problem.
When the place you live is a disorienting study in contrast—comprising great wealth and great poverty, soaring youthful hopes and debilitating structural realities, deep love and terrible violence—how can you find your voice, make wise decisions, stay grounded in the tumult? F R E E: The Power of Performance is a feature-length documentary film directed and produced by Suzanne LaFetra and David Collier that follows five teenagers who use dance and spoken word to transcend the traumas inherent in their daily lives.
What can the arts and culture do for our communities? A striking answer can be seen in Fargo, North Dakota, where residents came together with artists to show that civic and cultural improvements often go hand-in-hand. The City of Fargo, ND is located near the Red River, which floods seasonally. To manage this, Fargo has built storm water retention basins—as big as over a dozen football fields side-by-side—that take up a large amount of public space and physically separate neighborhoods.
This is the first in a series of guest posts by Judi Jennings called “Asking Tough Questions About Creative Placemaking.” The series will highlight analysis and action ideas from interviews with some of the best minds in placemaking and philanthropy. The interviews are part of the Creative Placemaking From the Community Up project, which is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts Our Town Knowledge Building grants program.
When internationally renowned architect Sir David Adjaye was selected to design a building for an affordable housing nonprofit in New York City, people took notice. When the project included a children’s museum of art and storytelling along with a preschool—in addition to 124 beautifully appointed, permanent living spaces for low-income and formerly homeless people and families—it transformed any preconception of what supportive housing is “supposed” to be.
In 2013, ArtPlace America invested in the implementation of two “Creational Trails” in Milwaukee, a project led by the Greater Milwaukee Committee. Both trail initiatives were intended to address specific problems, both were intensely collaborative, and both employed many of the same partners, including MKE<->LAX consultant Sara Daleiden and the City of Milwaukee. Through a partnership with NEWaukee, the West Wisconsin Avenue Creational Trail resulted in the NEWaukee Night Markets (which continue to be very popular) and impacted the successful redevelopment that is still taking place in the area.
Like Riding a Bicycle is the name of our socially engaged art collective. We have been working together since 2014 to empower communities and individuals in the places they live. We are currently working with the Heights Community Development Corporation (CDC) in Memphis, Tennessee, to create community engagement programing that complements the development of a new neighborhood-led multimodal infrastructure project called the Heights Line.
The Alameda County Sheriff's Office (ACSO) is recognized as a national leader in progressive public safety. Through community development initiatives, authentic relationship building, sports, arts, and recreation, it is helping to transform disinvested neighborhoods in urban unincorporated areas of the county it serves. In 2016, ArtPlace America invested in Eden Lives! The project was started by the Alameda County Deputy Sheriffs’ Activities League (DSAL), a nonprofit that organizes programming for adults and youth to complement the community-oriented and problem-solving policing style pursued by the ACSO.
It’s been just over two years since the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) released How to Do Creative Placemaking: a 200-plus-page guide to cultivating, nurturing, and sustaining all the elements necessary for successful creative placemaking efforts. The guide has since been read and referenced by thousands of people and communities across the country. ArtPlace recently caught up with Jen Hughes, the agency’s director of design and creative placemaking, about how the guide came about, the impact it’s had, and what’s next for creative placemaking at the NEA.