Knowledgebase Collection

Creative Placemaking

Creative placemaking is a process where community member, artists, arts and culture organizations, community developers, and other stakeholders use arts and cultural strategies to implement community-led change. This approach aims to increase vibrancy, improve economic conditions, and build capacity among residents to take ownership of their communities.

There are varying definitions for creative placemaking related to how different organizations interpret the term. According to Gadwa and Markusen, creative placemaking is when “partners from public, private, non-profit, and community sectors strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, city, or region around arts and cultural activities.” Several APA publications have provided slightly different versions of the meaning of creative placemaking, including a PAS Memo on creative placemaking which states that “[c]reative placemaking is a new way of engaging creative people and activities to address social and economic issues in communities.” Additionally, PAS Report 590 describes creative placemaking as the use of “arts and cultural activities to rejuvenate public places.”

Successful creative placemaking highlights unique community characteristics. Projects can focus on connecting local history with the present, bringing cultural influences into the spotlight and creating new traditions.  It builds connections between people and places by encouraging collaboration and visualization. The length of the project will often shape what is implemented: oftentimes, creative placemaking will activate public spaces or create a short-term opportunity to connect residents around arts and culture.

While the creative placemaking process results in changes to physical spaces, it is also an opportunity to build relationships between diverse partners and to build positive change. A key element in the creative placemaking process is to have stakeholders, including artists, engaged early in the process. This provides opportunities to look at community challenges in an inclusive manner, gathering and deciding on creative placemaking actions based on a variety of community perspectives.

From this page you can search for resources that provide background and policy guidance on creative placemaking. And you can filter these search results by various graphic and demographic characteristics.

APA Resources

Natick Center Creative Placemaking Project

This case study profiles a project to activate public spaces in Natick, Massachusetts.

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Arts, Culture & Creativity

This web page presents a series of five briefing papers that explore the role of arts and culture strategies in achieving economic, social, environmental, and community goals. They provide general information, define concepts, and incorporate case studies related to the arts, culture, and community.  Areas of focus include community heritage and culture, community character and sense of place, community engagement, and economic vitality.

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Creative Placemaking from the Community Up

The session from NPC17 explores creative placemaking that is grounded in values of equity, inclusion, racial justice, and mutual accountability, and that deepens belonging and strengthens civic engagement. Case studies from Newark, Los Angeles, NYC, Tucson, Oakland, and Kentucky (statewide) illustrate creative forms of participatory planning and community engagement.

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Creative Placemaking PAS Memo

This PAS Memo offers planners a primer on creative placemaking efforts that use arts and cultural activities to add value to communities and achieve planning goals. It provides definitions, discusses the history of creative placemaking, and provides guidelines for planners who engage in creative placemaking.

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Gentrification and the Artistic Dividend: The Role of the Arts in Neighborhood Change

This JAPA article explores the relationship between creative placemaking, gentrification, and displacement. It compares fine arts and commercial arts activity in metropolitan areas with neighborhood variables used to identify gentrification and neighborhood revitalization in 100 metropolitan statistical areas. It finds that fine arts and commercial arts industries are associated with different types of neighborhoods and levels of neighborhood change. It concludes by recommending that planners should consider how different forms of arts-based development impact neighborhoods and stresses the importance of identifying techniques to mitigate displacement of residents and businesses.

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Nurturing Creative Places - A Dive into the Arts and Planning Toolkit

This video explores the Arts and Planning Toolkit a menu of creative placemaking strategies shape urban spaces using arts and culture strategies. Arts and culture in urban spaces can create spaces where residents can be healthy, connected, and vibrant. It incorporates case studies and provides additional resources related to integrating arts and culture in planning.

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Placemaking on a Budget

This PAS Report offers help for small towns, neighborhoods, and downtowns that need to enhance identity and social connections without spending a lot of money. It discusses how citizens can get involved in identifying the history, culture, and resources that make their community unique. It concludes with project management recommendations to keep placemaking components organized and focused on the community.

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Transatlantic Lessons in Transit Expansion and Placemaking

This On Demand recorded panel session discusses how regional transit projects can be opportunities for placemaking, sustainable development, and equitable economic growth. It explores transatlantic case studies and highlights policy innovations applicable to U.S. cities.

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Creative Placemaking from the Community Up

This APA Learn course explores various community-driven projects that bolster civic engagament, racial justice, and equitable access with art and culture at the forefront.
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Transformation of Place in Small Cities

This APA Learn course highlights a placemaking program that is building community capacity, revitalizing real estate, and activating place in small cities throughout Massachusetts.

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The Art of Public Engagement

This Planning article considers how public engagement can be used as a creative placemaking strategy.

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When Arts and Culture Take Center Stage

This Planning article discusses the importance of art and culture in redevelopment initiatives.

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The Power of Story

This Planning article highlights storytelling as a creative placemaking strategy.

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Putting the Funk in Functional

This Planning article explores how residents of Houston use creative placemaking to make their neighborhoods more interesting places to live.

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A New Planning Partnership Brings Art to Public Spaces

This blog post discusses efforts by Forecast Public Art and the APA to increase knowledge of how to use public art in planning practice.

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Catalyzing Livable Communities with Cultural Planning

This blog post highlights the importance of cultural planning and shares links to examples of cultural plans.

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Public Art and Public Health Come Together in Minnesota

This blog post discusses how five Minnesota cities have used public art interventions to try to improve the physical health of citizens, economic prosperity, community well-being, social cohesion, livability, and a healthy environment.

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Planning for Music Can Help Transform American Cities

This Planning article considers how music has impacted the development of cities and shares 7 strategies for a strong music scene.

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No Place Like It

This Planning article describes the importance of arts and culture on planning New Orleans.

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Measuring Outcomes of Creative Placemaking

Measuring outcomes is a challenge that has been identified by creative placemaking practitioners. Creative placemaking strategies can have a wide range of spatial and social impacts, which can have different impacts on different communities. In some instances, there is a need to be able to compare the impact of creative placemaking strategies on a wide scale, however, a standard approach to evaluating projects may not be appropriate to document the unique impacts of creative placemaking initiatives. 

Creative Placemaking and Equity

Creative placemaking can be used as an approach to economic development and community revitalization, processes which require safeguards to prevent displacement of current businesses and residents. Communities that have successfully increased community vibrancy can experience an increased demand from residents outside of the community, leading to gentrification.

Additionally, it is important to understand who will benefit from the creative placemaking process. In changing communities, getting input from current residents can help ground creative placemaking projects on issues that have long term impacts on the community.

Creative placemaking can use community engagement strategies to encourage participation of a variety of community residents. The process of creative placemaking brings together facilitators (like artists) and community members to address community issues using arts and culture. This approach can help identify community-based solutions and build capacity among residents to implement them.

Creative Placemaking and Community Goals

Because creative placemaking easily lends itself to collaborative action, it can be used to meet a wide range of community goals. Communities facing a variety of challenges (e.g., vacant properties, environmental degradation, or declining economic conditions) have worked with artists to identify solutions like allowing temporary uses for arts and culture, water use demonstrations, and skill development opportunities for community members. Applying creative placemaking strategies to address existing community challenges can spark interest to address longstanding challenges, provide fresh perspectives, and encourage innovative solutions that move communities closer to their vision for a better future.

Background Resources

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