How Arts and Cultural Strategies Create, Reinforce, and Enhance Sense of Place

Arts and Culture Briefing Papers 3

By Jeffrey Soule, FAICP, Kimberley Hodgson, Kelly Beavers



Arts and culture strategies help to reveal and enhance the underlying identity — the unique meaning, value, and character — of the physical and social form of a community. This identity is reflected through the community's character or sense of place. A community's sense of place is not a static concept; rather, it evolves and develops over time, reflecting the spectrum of social values within and around the community.

In this way, the community character of a city, county, town, or neighborhood can be seen as a story or narrative of a place. Planners and community members can come together to reveal and burnish this narrative through:

  • an articulation of the historic, cultural, economic, and cultural context of the community;
  • a commitment to the reinforcement and enhancement of the community's identity; and
  • the implementation of policies, regulations, and incentives that support and enhance this evolving identity.


Page Count
Date Published
March 1, 2011
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Authors

Jeffrey Soule, FAICP
<p>Jeff Soule FAICP, retired as&nbsp;Director of Outreach and International Programs for APA in April 2020.&nbsp;Previously he was senior planner for the Tug Hill Commission in New York, oversaw the small town revitalization program for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and was Director of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania. Overseas, Soule has served as special advisor to the Mayor of Nanjing, developing a strategy for revitalizing the city&rsquo;s historic neighborhoods and helped develop several innovative plans for other Chinese cities and regions. Soule served&nbsp;as a US delegate to the General Assembly for ICOMOS which advises governments regarding cultural conservation and was also a member of the US committee for Habitat III. Jeffrey represented&nbsp;APA at a varietyof international forums including the United Nations Habitat, UNESCO and the World Urban Campaign. He is currently the Director of the Place Making Institute which hosts planning directors and faculty to discuss planning issues. He is also a guest professor at Tianjin University.</p>

Kimberley Hodgson
Kimberley Hodgson, MURP, MS, AICP, RD is the founder of Cultivating Healthy Places, an international consulting business specializing in community health, social equity and sustainable food systems planning. As a certified planner and health professional, her work focuses on conducting policy-relevant research and providing technical assistance to the public and private sectors related to the design and development of healthy, sustainable places. Hodgson served as co-investigator of a $3.96 million grant awarded to the University at Buffalo by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Food Systems Program. The project, Growing Food Connections, generated knowledge about the effectiveness of local and regional government policies in improving food security in underserved communities, strengthening the resilience of rural communities, and supporting the economic viability of food production. She is the author of Planning for Food Access and Community-Based Food Systems and co-author of Urban Agriculture: Growing Healthy Sustainable Places. Ms. Hodgson holds an undergraduate degree from New York University in pre-medicine, a Master of Science in food policy and applied nutrition from Tufts University, and a Master of Urban and Regional Planning with a specialization in community health and sustainability from Virginia Tech.

Kelly Beavers