Building Communities, Building the Field

By    Jul 7, 2014

At NAS, we have seen many examples of what happens when arts and culture works to create positive change in the social, economic and cultural well-being of communities in the US and around the world. This work has been going on for many years, and now is coalescing in the range of approaches and attitudes as creative placemaking – a field of imaginative ideas, committed practice and dedicated practitioners.

In many communities, webs of organizations and individuals work in this way, integrated into the heart/soul of their neighborhoods, communities or cities – making constructive differences on small, medium and large scales. They are the nonprofit cultural organizations bent on social change; they are major institutions like a museum that act as a community convener and anchor; they are entrepreneurs, neighborhood advocates, working professionals inside larger institutions, and individual artists with a deep passion for overcoming the harm created by poverty and lack of opportunity.

My work in the community development/revitalization field and the arts and culture field has shown me that good ideas come from many sources – expected and unexpected. That partners come in all sizes and shapes. And that an array of inputs from different sectors, from different types of people may be more chaotic at times or confusing to manage, but it keeps our minds agile and open to new ways of solving old problems and builds supportive networks of differently minded people committed to a common goal. And we, at NAS, are committed to helping the field bring these ideas to fruition, scale what works, and explore how a broad range of interventions can impact neighborhoods and communities. We do this, in part, by creating space for useful conversations and framing constructive debate – like this blog.

Perhaps, like me, you have a mental model of how community development or creative placemaking works or doesn’t work. Let’s talk about these. Share our observations. Create conversations that tackle the hard stuff. And let’s disagree and debate and listen. Together, we can forge ideas into actions that build our communities, our neighborhoods, our colleagues and ourselves.