Regrets of an Accidental Placemaker
My first foray into creative placemaking entailed teaming up with a friend who managed a local art gallery to organize an art party in one of those empty retail spaces. The commercial real estate agent who represented the owner of that space was my neighbor, and mentioned that he was looking for ways to activate the space to attract potential renters. My friend and I programmed performance artists, video artists, and a band.
A few months later, we organized a similar event in a space down the street that had been a brake service garage. Oil stained the concrete floor and tools still hung on the wall. This time we charged $10 a head and didn’t give away the booze. The brake shop has since been turned into a coffee shop and design studio.
Once I saw that I could make a living producing art events, despite the significant decrease in salary, I quit my law job and started organizing arts events in raw spaces all over the city. I cultivated relationships with developers who would let me temporarily occupy their buildings, which were usually located in less developed parts of the city.
My pitches for space usually centered around the developer’s needs and not the needs of the neighborhood or its residents. I didn’t pay much attention to what impact those events would have on the surrounding neighborhoods. I believed that the neighborhoods would be improved if I could convince people to come visit neglected sections of the city and see their potential.