Tough Questions for Creative Placemakers

The process by which creative types colonize a distressed neighborhood, making it safe for hipsters and developers, has become a common template for urban revitalization efforts. Neeraj Mehta asks who is served, and who isn't, by these forces.
October 30, 2012, 9am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Creative placemaking - the process by which "partners from public, private, nonprofit, and community sectors strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, tribe, city, or region around arts and cultural activities" - has become a common path by which city leaders, and planners, seek to bring economic growth and vitality to their cities. But in surveying the statements by which organizations define and decide to fund creative placemaking efforts, Mehta finds that a pro-equity agenda is missing from the conversation.

"When we talk about creative placemaking and its role in increasing vibrancy and revitalizing neighborhoods," says Mehta, "we need to ask much deeper questions and strive for much more explicit goals. Specifically, how is our creative placemaking benefiting low-income communities and communities of color?"

"Let's define 'who benefits' as a clear indicator of our success or failure," argues Mehta. "We need to be more purposeful, targeted and explicit about who our creative placemaking strategies are intended to benefit. And if we're working in communities that are distressed, poor or have been historically populated by communities of color, then we need to make sure that whatever strategies we design, or investments we make, are creating benefit for them."


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Published on Tuesday, October 16, 2012 in Next American City
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