This month on the ArtPlace blog, we’re looking at how artists can make change happen in their communities.
Late last year, the National Recreation and Park Association published a story authored by Alexis Stephens and Victor Rubin of PolicyLink, an ArtPlace consulting partner. Titled “What Happens When Parks and Artists Partner to Advance Equity,” the article focused on two park-centric ArtPlace Community Development Investments (CDI) projects: the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project (ZYEP) in Zuni, New Mexico, and Fairmount Park Conservancy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. These public space initiatives received CDI funding and technical support in 2015; three years later, what they accomplished showed the central role artists can play in anchoring successful, equitable, neighbor-led community planning and capital building projects.
Here’s a bit of the article that speaks to the impressive results:
Art is essential and integral to life at the Zuni Pueblo — to both the economy and to the spiritual resilience of the culture. ZYEP saw the power of drawing in Zuni artists to the park planning process, through the creation of a six-member advisory committee, to give input on the design of a park that would address a broad set of psychological and social needs beyond physical activity.
Zuni youth and their families face daunting challenges of historical trauma and enduring poverty, leaving them at risk for mental health issues, including suicide. Tom Faber, founder and co- director of ZYEP deemed arts and culture critical to creating a “safe, stable, nurturing environment” in the park, as they concurrently shifted their organizational work to becoming more trauma-informed and resilience-based over the course of three years. ... Prior to this park, the Zuni community had little input in capital project developments. However, because of early artist involvement to culturally ground the design of the park and foster community buy-in, the Zuni people fellownership over “our community park.” This cultural lens informed the architecture of the community center, traditional wood “coyote” perimeter fencing and murals displaying the Zuni origin story, reinforcing the resiliency of the Zuni people.