Centering Creative Youth in Community Development

December 18, 2020

By: Jeff M. Poulin, Creative Generation

Following closely on the heels of our community wealth building research published yesterday, ArtPlace is thrilled to release our tenth and final cross-sector field scan focused on arts, culture, and youth development. Authored by our partners at Creative Generation, Centering Creative Youth in Community Development: A Creative Placemaking Field Scan builds on the incredible depth and breadth of evidence that exists in the fields of arts education and creative youth development. Read on to learn more, and visit Creative Generation’s Creative Youth & Community Development website for multi-media case studies, thought-provoking blogs, new perspectives from youth and practitioners, news updates relevant to the topic, and more in the coming months.

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Young people are envisioning the future of their communities. More than ever before – in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting economic recession, the political uncertainty of the U.S. presidential election, and the racial reckoning in response to the violence against Black civilians at the hands of police – youth see the challenges our communities are facing and understand the need to use their artistic, cultural, and creative capabilities to dismantle problematic systems. As adults, we must support the creative work of youth, cede power where possible, and uplift their visions for the future.  

To do this, we must understand the immense and expansive impact of creative youth on communities. The Creative Youth & Community Development research initiative, commissioned by ArtPlace America and led by Creative Generation, explored the intersections of arts and culture, community development, and youth development through community based, youth- and practitioner-led research. The initiative produced a series of web-based tools and resources created by and for practitioners operating in this intersecting space, the first of which we are releasing today. 

In the new report, “Centering Creating Youth in Community Development: A Creative Placemaking Field Scan,” young creative people, their adult allies, and a team of researchers sought to answer the question: “What impact do creative youth have on communities?” Combining knowledge from a 15-person advisory committee, the extant literature in the fields of community development and youth development, and deep-dives into nine selected case studies – comprised of interviews, narratives, and artistic works – the resulting field scan presents three sets of findings: community benefits articulated in the words of young creatives; strategies for partnering to expand the reach of youth-led creative placemaking projects; and new ways of defining success.

Most notably, we concluded that unabashedly, young creatives believe their projects benefit both people and places and promote more just and thriving communities. Specifically, youth leading creative projects in their communities see a future where:

  • Youth increase creativity and cultivate greater agency in themselves and others
  • Communities (people and places) are more sustainable and responsive
  • Youth-serving organizations honor personal identity and build collective belonging
  • Places and their populations are healthier, safer, and better able to foster wellbeing
  • Youth and adults catalyze intergenerational cultural continuity

We at Creative Generation are proud of this work, of our partnership with ArtPlace America, and perhaps most importantly, of the values-based approach we took to centering young creatives and their understanding of community development work. As practitioners, we encourage you to read this field scan for its content, of course, but also for insights on the processes utilized throughout the tumultuous year of 2020. We specifically call on our peers to highlight: 

  • The power of young people in catalyzing social change through youth-led, place-based, creative, community development projects;
  • The responsibility of their adult allies in ceding power, co-creating, and bridging the work beyond existing silos; and
  • The potential – modeled in this very research initiative – of empowering and uplifting young people to lead the generation, documentation, and dissemination of knowledge about this work.

Our hope is that this body of research provokes necessary dialogues among practitioners, youth and their adult allies, and other field-wide decision-makers to envision a new future for the role of creative youth in community development. Join us in January 2021 and beyond as we continue to curate responses to this research: