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What It Really Takes for Art to Drive Placemaking: A Conversation between Jamie Bennett and Jonathon Glus

Presented by Houston Arts Alliance; Co-sponsored by the Center for Arts Leadership at the University of Houston

Houston Arts Alliance and the Center for Arts Leadership at the University of Houston (UH) presented The Creative Placemaking Series: What It Really Takes for Art to Drive Placemaking. Jonathon Glus, President + CEO of Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) interviewed Jamie Bennett, Executive Director of ArtPlace America, about creative placemaking and the intersection of art and public space.

This in-depth conversation between Mr. Bennett (ArtPlace) and Mr. Glus (HAA) explored the nature of placemaking, effective placemaking methods and the future of American placemaking. Watch the full video here.  

The robust conversation and questions covered history, underlying philosophies and some of the complicated issues that has arisen.  The conversation included ideas around:

  • What is ArtPlace and Creative Placemaking, and tracing some of the thinking to Jane Jacobs
  • Creative Placemaking is not just about buildings.  It can be about communities, it can include "temporary inventions that create lasting change." Examples include: 
    Asian Arts Initiative - "is located in a place that's called many different things by different people"; 
    Springboard for the Arts' project around the light rail line that created a neighborhood identity through 120 collaborative art projects.
  • Art in a place can be catalytic to conversation and understanding.  
  • NEA did an investigation on How Art Works in on people, on communities, or on society.  They published a paper on their research model, a system map and evaluation.
  • We are now in an Experience Economy -  where instead of goods or service exchange, it's about an experience.
  • on Excellence - Jamie Bennett (JB): We believe Artistic Excellence is necessary but not sufficient for creative placemaking to succeed... in plainer language, I believe that crappy art will produce crappy community outcomes.
  • JB: Creative Placemaking is not the only way in which artists and arts organizations work with communities, there are many other ways...
  • Creative Placemaking has leveraged new monies for communities and the arts, but it also has raised the conversation in different sectors that can lead to potentially other investment and resources.
  • The need for better design in general, and how to engage planners and developers into the conversation
  • JB: The gentrification framework is not one that leads to solutions...I find it important to have a conversation about displacement, because that is the word that can lead to policy, intervention and can be addressed...
  • In working in placemaking endeavors, (JB): It's important to undersand the people, the assets and the systems that are in play and that every neighborhood does not work the same way...
  • on evaluation and measures of success:  JB: I believe creative place making is a suite of interventions, suite of activities that can help achieve multitude of outcomes and I believe that creative place making operates with in the frame work of community planning and development... sometimes evaluation can be as simple as a person with a pencil...

Additional resources can be found in on our Pinterest page and in our Reading Group section which references discussions that happened in the 2014 Leadership in the Arts Summit.  You can find resources from leading researcher and one of the co-authors of the initial Creative Placemaking white paper Ann Markusen, ideas raised by Aaron Landsman including the Roberto Bedoya text about (dis)belonging, and information about local placemaking projects.