Next InFocus: How Creative Placemaking is Breathing New Life Into Cities Across The U.S.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Mike Gallagher
Changing a gang-controlled, illegal drug market into a community canvas for street artists. Opening cavernous, unused buildings for young, local musicians to showcase their burgeoning talent. Allowing up-and-coming chefs to hold tasting events at unusual locales.
These ideas and more are the centerpiece of a new, evolving field called creative placemaking that experts say intentionally leverages the power of arts, culture and creativity to serve a community’s interest while driving a broader agenda for change, growth and transformation.
Across the country in cities large and small, some once-deteriorating and economically struggling neighborhoods are undergoing a renaissance as young and old come together to breathe new life into their communities by embracing positive change through creative placemaking.
Foundation leaders throughout Michigan are recognizing the importance of this movement and say they want to learn more about how it can play a role in helping the cities, towns and villages they serve become more vibrant and enticing to attract and retain millennials and others, along with new businesses.
On March 15, the Council of Michigan Foundations’ (CMF) InFocus SEM Series will bring together a panel of experts to share their stories, insights and suggestions on using arts, culture and creativity to build healthy communities through exciting and desirable must-visit destinations and events. 
InFocus will be held at Detroit’s Rattlesnake Club, 300 River Place Drive, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Cost: $40 for CMF members; $80 for non-members.
Presenters include three of Michigan’s top experts on creative placemaking: Vince Carducci, dean of undergraduate studies, College for Creative Studies; Dan Gilmartin, executive director & CEO, Michigan Municipal League; and Helen Davis Johnson, program officer, The Kresge Foundation. 
Christine Peck, trustee/secretary of The Peck Foundation, will serve as moderator.
“I will be talking about the activities we are involved in at the College for Creative Studies and the work being done by our community arts program where students are sent out to work on projects that bring people together and enrich their lives,” says Carducci.
“One topic to be discussed will be art activism and its role in creative placemaking and, in particular, those projects that have garnered media attention the attendees may have heard about. I’ll touch on finding a good balance between institutional and entrepreneurial.”
Once such successful project is Graffiti Alley in Southwest Detroit where a once-dangerous alley controlled by gangs and used for drug trafficking was turned into a street artist’s paradise bringing in thousands of visitors to an area that is now watched over by the artists themselves, says Carducci, adding “It’s a very cool project!”
Gilmartin says he will share his creative placemaking experiences and the importance of understanding the latest trends and how to make them work in all areas of life for residents and visitors alike.
“The goal in Michigan communities is to make places where people want to be,” he says. “Places where we can attract a talented workforce and businesses and bring people into these communities. What makes communities attractive and great today is not what made them great in the 1950s.
“People are looking at life and shopping and food experiences to enhance their lives,” added Gilmartin.
Johnson, adds, “I will talk about how The Kresge Foundation defines creative placemaking and the ways we see art and culture intersect with community and economic development, what it looks like from the ground level, the challenges to this work, and the role funders are playing and can play.
“In addition, I will share the success of the St. Clair Superior Development Corp. in Cleveland where they have an art-infused community development approach that focuses on food. Also, in Alameda County, California, their sheriff’s department uses arts and culture across all segments of their police work,” notes Johnson.
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