Environment and Energy

Marion, IA (population 37,000) is home to a historic commercial district, which has served as the community’s civic and cultural hub for 176 years. A major streetscape project disrupted traffic in Uptown Marion, and city leaders wanted to find ways to help businesses stay afloat during the construction phase. The alleyways have been transformed into welcoming walkways that the community started using prior to the roadwork. Dramatic infrastructure improvements took place and the area became an attractive canvas, with public installed and cultural programming bringing customers to businesses’ back doors.
At the Arts Council New Orleans, our work is guided by one core belief, that art transforms communities. It has the power to illuminate, educate, and inspire. It is the heartbeat of communities and reminds us what we can be. It is a powerful tool, that when utilized appropriately, can serve as a catalyst for true, impactful change. This we feel is especially true when the projects we take on provide opportunities for us to bridge the gaps between artists and designers, community stakeholders, and the civic institutions and processes that drive the way our built environment is developed — allowing us to bring art into the public realm in intentional and thoughtful ways. This type of cross-sector collaboration leads to projects that create economic sustainability for local creatives, increase community engagement and connectedness, and work toward addressing some the larger hurdles our city faces.
Imagine being 7 years old and forced to walk alone or only with other children through a community with broken or missing sidewalks, past lots so overgrown with weeds and trees that you were forced to walk in the street, knowing that your safety as a child was constantly under threat from attacks by stray dogs, unscrupulous adults, and other hurdles that greeted you on your way to and from school each day. These are the conditions that activated myself, LaShawnda Crowe Storm, and my artistic compeer Phyllis Viola Boyd. We simply asked the question, “What can we do to at least make this better for our children?”
With our focus this month on public safety, the ArtPlace team thought October would be the perfect time to re-introduce one of our most comprehensive deep-dives into the topic: the 2016 field scan titled “Exploring the Ways Arts and Culture Intersect with Public Safety: Identifying Current Practice and Opportunities for Further Inquiry.” The field scan, which was written by Caroline Ross of the Urban Institute in partnership with ArtPlace America, offers a comprehensive review of the projects, opportunities and challenges that lie at the intersection of creative placemaking and public safety.
In May 2017, the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center finally achieved its goal of creating a communal arts center in the heart of Boston’s historic Chinatown neighborhood. The Pao Arts Center (one of ArtPlace’s 2016 funded projects) officially opened to the public on May 6, with plans to incorporate a wide range of programming and educational initiatives in partnership with other community organizations like Bunker Hill Community College.
Much has been written about the value of creative placemaking and the absolute necessity to work collectively with the whole community including residents, artists and arts organizations, businesses, elected officials, and, of course, funders. An essential step in realizing your creative placemaking vision is having accurate data that lets you know who and what already exists in your community, and all the better if that data can be visually depicted.
In looking at who does community planning and development in America’s communities, we have found that our colleagues are generally organized into ten sectors : Agriculture & Food, Economic Development, Education & Youth, Environment & Energy, Housing, Immigration, Public Safety, Transportation, and Workforce Development. As a core part of our research agenda, we are exploring how arts and cultural practitioners are and might become partners in helping to achieve each of these sector’s goals
For decades, arts leaders have been wringing their hands about graying audiences. But has the challenge of attracting younger audiences caused us to overlook the incredible potential of older adults and the ways the arts can engage them? Have we assumed that older adults can’t or won’t learn new things, try new art forms, or learn to create? Have we been looking through an outdated, ageist lens? It’s time to consider the benefits of investing in arts learning by those 55 and better. “ The Wall ,” a powerful, brief animated video, will open your eyes to the ways that learning, making and sharing the arts can profoundly transform the experience of aging.
When roughly 14 miles of a bus rapid transit line was proposed along Division Street in East Portland, the effort was greeted with interest in an often-neglected area of the city, but also concern about the possibilities of displacement and development poorly engaged with the unique local culture. To address those concerns, community members throughout the Jade and Division Midway districts were engaged through arts and culture projects to recalibrate the plan to better serve community needs.
​ Our hearts go out to all those affected by Harvey and Irma. It’s hard to comprehend the devastation, especially to poor and underserved communities who feel the full force of not only the weather, but disproportionately, the aftermath. After physical and material safety has been reestablished, there is still much more work to do. Designers can be key players in this work. Laetitia Wolff, AIGA/NY Director of strategic initiatives said "In time of natural disasters, designers have very different yet critical roles to play. Whether they are called for emergency first responses, relief periods or longer-term recovery planning, their communications skills are key in (re)building communities and shaping our sense of place."