Creative Placemaking: The arts are for everyone!

What is creative placemaking?

If you are looking for ways to make your neighborhood park more beautiful and inviting to your community, then consider using creative-placemaking approaches. Creative placemaking happens when stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds “integrate arts and culture into community revitalization work.”

Infographic with ten written examples of creative placemaking.
Ten examples of creative placemaking in parks, from the Field Guide.

Read some of these examples of creative placemaking, and you’ll see that art in parks is not just an outcome; art is embedded in everything from communicating with your neighbors to hosting events and supporting local business. You can use the arts in parks to improve community health, economic development, public safety, civic engagement, sustainability, and much more. Below are some tips, tricks, and best practices for park enthusiasts to bring creative placemaking practices into your own community.

Sculpture of a three-headed dragon in Benito Juarez Park, Los Angeles
Sculpture of a three-headed dragon in Benito Juarez Park, Los Angeles. Image credit Annie Bang.

Key players in creative placemaking

Engaging the right folks in the process will ensure that your park and the arts it hosts represent the community’s culture and will set your project up for success down the road. Below are partners to include:

  1. Artists are invaluable assets to a team because they not only have skills in producing physical art, but they can help communicate, problem-solve, and innovate. They can also help you reach more community members. A great example of leveraging artists on a team comes from Ho’n A:Wan Community Park in Zuni Pueblo.
  2. Arts organizations can connect you with artists and voice concerns on behalf of artist communities.
  3. Community members are the ultimate benefactors of creative placemaking projects and should be engaged in the creative process. Your neighbors can participate in a range of capacities: give input on design and themes, cocreate a mural with neighbors, and steward the park with future arts and cultural productions, just to name a few examples.
  4. City and public authorities such as the parks department or cultural affairs office can be drivers of creative placemaking and ultimately take ownership of the park once it is complete.
  5. Other nonprofits and groups such as neighborhood associations can give feedback and voice concerns from the community.

Community members in Wenatchee, WA create papel picado during a community meeting.
Community members in Wenatchee, WA create papel picado during a community meeting. Image credit Adair Freedman Rutledge.

How to do creative placemaking

It’s a messy process with seemingly infinite branching paths, but at its core, creative placemaking is a spin on meaningful community engagement. Take a look at the bare bones process and learn more from The Field Guide for Parks and Creative Placemaking.

  1. Define the size and scope of your community. Who will be affected by the park project?
  2. Articulate a change your community would like to see.
  3. Propose an arts-based intervention to help achieve that change.
  4. Develop a way to know whether the change has occurred.

Infographic listing the four steps to creative placemaking
Four Steps to Creative Placemaking, adapted from the Field Guide

Creative placemaking best practices
  • Hire local artists with ties to the neighborhood. This will help create a space that is more reflective of the community, build trust with neighbors, invest in local business, and expand your network.
  • Tap into creative funding sources by presenting this project to a variety of interests including arts, environment, education, health, and others.
  • Use every opportunity to engage more community members. For example, don’t just have a lone artist paint a mural in a public space; invite neighbors to participate in a paint day.
  • Use arts as a safe and inviting way for neighbors to communicate their ideas for the park. For example, ask language-limited community members (such as children, ESL, or differently abled individuals) to draw elements of the park they would like to see changed. Though not a park, a favorite example of using arts to communicate change is from One Poem at a Time by IDEAS xLab.
Additional resources