Catalyzing Livable Communities with Cultural Planning

On Monday morning, more than 100 planners gathered at NPC17 to learn how cultural planning can advance a range of planning priorities through cross-sector and cross-disciplinary innovations.

A panel of five experts in arts and cultural planning (Tom Borrup, Julie Burros, Kara Elliott-Ortega, Jennifer Erickson, and Jennifer Raitt) discussed innovative policies and tools emerging from cultural planning processes operating at the neighborhood, district, city, town, and regional scales in and around Boston; Chicago; Duluth, Minnesota; Durango, Colorado; Lawrence, Kansas; and the Des Moines, Iowa, area.

Art takes you away from what you do day to day. It gives you energy. You want to see the outcome and what it's capable of doing in the community.
—Property manager in Boston on participating in the cultural planning process

These efforts can help achieve planning outcomes in areas such as open space, public health, community development, and economic development.

The panel discussed how planners focus exclusively on the design and regulation of hard infrastructure, to the neglect of a community's soft infrastructure — civic and social — of which arts and culture are a part.

Although there is increasing recognition of the importance of the arts (although most often in a stand-alone plan, not part of the comprehensive plan), the broader definition of culture is still rarely incorporated. However, cultural planning can benefit the planning profession by putting the focus on users (rather than uses).

With a focus on arts and culture, planners can bring people together on difficult issues by lifting up voices and facilitating dialogue. Check out the cultural plans linked above to see how planners are addressing economic development, affordable housing, zoning, community aesthetics, and more through a cultural lens.

Top image: Cover of Building on Lawrence's Creative Capital: A City-Wide Cultural Plan for Lawrence, Kansas.

About the Author
Jennifer Henaghan, AICP, is APA's deputy research director.

May 8, 2017

By Jennifer Henaghan, AICP