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Creative Placemaking: A Tour

At the end of 2013, LISC’s Erik Takeshita and Mindy Leiterman visited cities across the country thanks to support from the Kresge Foundation to learn more about how creative placemaking is making a difference in low- and moderate-income communities (read Erik’s blog posts about the experience).

Here is a glimpse into some of the places they saw, the people they met and the projects they learned about.

Support for a vibrant arts scene, including renovating historic buildings like the Fountain Square Theater, has been the driver for the revitalization of Indianapolis’ Fountain Square neighborhood. Thanks to work by the local community development corporation, Southeast Neighborhood Development, Inc. (SEND), the neighborhood is now literally on the map as an official community on the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. Photo courtesy of LISC Indianapolis

A few blocks away, the Harrison Center for the Arts is a community-based resource that offers everything from galleries that showcase local art to a cafe where families can learn about homes for sale in the surrounding neighborhoods through programs like the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Photo courtesy of the Harrison Center

The Harrison Center’s Gallery No. 2, getting ready for a new show. The space includes a recording studio, where local youth are recording spoken word and musical pieces written about the community. Photo: Greg Perez

Joanna Beatty Taft, Harrison Center’s executive director, shows Erik around. The red door is the entrance to the building’s studios, which provide workspace at affordable rates for about three dozen local artists. Photo: Greg Perez

Fountain Square’s Wheeler Arts Building is a former factory that’s been converted to live-and-work space for visual artists and their families and a venue for theater performances and art exhibitions. SEND worked with LISC Indianapolis and other local partners to save the building and add a community resource. Photo courtesy of LISC Indianapolis.

In Philadelphia, Aviva Kapust, executive director of the Village of Arts and Humanities, and El Sawyer, the Village’s operations director, talk about the painted storefronts of Germantown Avenue. The nonprofit partnered with the city, the Mural Arts Program and artists Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn (also known as Haas & Hahn) to transform the facades of 172 businesses on the avenue into a tourist attraction and a jolt of excitement in the community. Photo: Samuel Dolgin-Gardner

Sawyer walks with a local artist through some of the murals and mosaics in Eastern North Philly. The Village works to preserve the neighborhood’s heritage of public art, along with providing arts and entrepreneurial programs for local teens, community garden programs, an artist in residency program and more. Photo: Samuel Dolgin-Gardner

Taller Puertorriqueño has served as “the cultural heart of Latino Philadelphia” for 40 years. The organization operates a bilingual bookstore, sponsors musical and theater events, and organizes cultural art education programs, such as this exhibit on Puerto Rican masks at their gallery when LISC visited. This piece, “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse/ Four Symptoms of HIV/AIDS – 2007,” is by the artist La Buruquena. Photo: Samuel Dolgin-Gardner

Across town in West Philadelphia, arts are playing a key role in the renovation by the People’s Emergency Center (PEC) of “Hawthorne Hall” at the center of the neighborhood’s commercial strip. The CDC has added arts and culture to the community quality-of-life plan after consistently hearing about their importance from residents. Photo: Samuel Dolgin-Gardner

As PEC is raising funds to return Hawthorne Hall to its former glory, it has given over the space to artists to showcase their work, like this installation by the artist collective Rabid Hands that was in place when LISC visited. The project also helps to draw attention and interest to the building and its redevelopment potential. Photo: Samuel Dolgin-Gardner

In Covington, Kentucky, two local LISC partners, the Center for Great Neighborhoods (GCN) and the Awesome Collective of Covington, are using arts and culture to reinvigorate the city, directly across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. Murals and mosaics are everywhere--this one, "The Divine Proportion of All Things," by Tina Westerkamp, was organized by Cincinnati-based ArtWorks. Photo: Vanessa Sorensen

A homeownership project by CGN, sponsored in part by LISC, is converting seven old shotgun row houses into homes for artists—it’s an intriguing pilot project for Covington, which has a lot of similar housing with unknown redevelopment potential. Photo: Vanessa Sorensen

Creative placemaking in Covington includes embracing what the city offers and building a sense of community. The Awesome Collective’s website says they “want to celebrate and promote Covington’s excellence, uniqueness, authenticity, and share their sense of excitement about the city.” This mural by BLDG was created during an annual urban art fair. Photo: Vanessa Sorensen

Kids in a Juxtaposition Arts visual arts class in North Minneapolis, sketching commuters at the bus stop across the street. A force in revitalization of the neighborhood near its headquarters, JXTA built the pocket park in the background and worked with local youth to decorate the planter boxes. Photo courtesy of Juxtaposition Arts

On the Green Line: In St. Paul, to make positive physical, economic and social impacts along a new light-rail corridor, the Irrigate initiative has supported nearly 200 artists to create 120 collaborative placemaking projects, like this fashion show on the light-rail line featuring creations by artist Yangmee Moua. Photo courtesy of Springboard for the Arts

A yarn-bombed bike, an Irrigate project by artist Carrie Christenson, points out where local stores are open during the rail line’s construction. Originated and led by Springboard for the Arts, Twin Cities LISC and the City of Saint Paul, Irrigate works with artists who live, work and have a personal investment in the area. Photo courtesy of Springboard for the Arts

In South Minneapolis, the Native American Community Development Institute helped create the American Indian Cultural Corridor, which includes sites like All My Relations Gallery, public art, dining and more. Photo courtesy of the Native American Community Development Institute

The Twin Cities American Indian Arts Festival brought more than 5,000 visitors to the American Indian Cultural Corridor on Franklin Avenue to celebrate the area’s Native American history and population. Photo courtesy of the Native American Community Development Institute

A decade ago, the Providence Steel and Iron Co. in Rhode Island was shuttered and likely to be demolished. Today, The Steel Yard is a community arts center and a bridge between economic development and the arts. The site’s success, supported in part by LISC, has helped spur the redevelopment of other nearby industrial facilities into live-work space for artists. Photo: Al Weems

Howie Snyder, The Steel Yard’s acting executive director, shows off fencing created through Weld to Work, a training program for local low-income residents. TSY has provided beautiful benches, gates, entryways and markers in nearby Olneyville, including decorative metalwork at affordable housing sites. Photo: Al Weems

The Steel Yard facilities, like these pottery wheels for the ceramics program, are resources for local residents and summer youth camps. The site also has spaces for community gatherings, free performances and is available for weddings and other private events. Photo: Al Weems

Umberto “Bert” Crenca, founder of Providence arts group AS220, talks about how these self-portrait collages of youth involved with the juvenile justice system in Providence will be public art displayed at local bus stops. Started as an illegal arts space in the city’s depressed downtown nearly 30 years ago, AS220 now owns three arts buildings, operates several restaurants and is constantly running performances, gallery openings and classes. Photo: Al Weems

A downtown Providence mural from well-known street artist Shepard Fairey, who went to school and opened a small business in the city at the start of his career. Crenca says that AS220 thinks of the arts as community builders and shapers of conscience. Photo: Al Weems


See the whole Thinking Out Loud series on creative placemaking here.

Posted in Arts & Culture


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