Sanders Henderson, the multi-talented owner of Nikki's Music - rightfully calls himself a workaholic. But as Justin asked in a recent post, does he think of himself as an artist? Does he see his many creative skills - in music events, store displays and balloon creations - as a way to contribute to community change?
It's an important question. How do residents and workers and organizations creatively tackle neighborhood-level issues ... Even if they don't think of themselves as "creatives"?
In just our first week on the ground in Buckeye, we've seen examples of people thinking creatively about a range of issues in their community. In the coming weeks, we'll be sharing their stories - what they're up to, what their successes have been ... And the things that they still struggle with.
But before we even get to that, we thought it'd be a good idea to point out that this kind of community approach is happening all over Cleveland ... And the country ... And the world.
That movement increasingly is being called by a particular name - creative placemaking.
Creative placemaking can take a lot of different forms, but at its core, it's about looking at the specific culture of a place. What makes a place unique? What's its history? What gets people excited there, and what do people worry about?
Creative placemaking takes all of that information to ask how creative and artistic approaches can make a particular community even stronger.
What excites us about this approach is that it's super-accessible. Not everyone has the resources and knowledge to tackle housing redevelopment or to organize community health screenings. But virtually everyone can get their neighbors together to think about what their community needs and what will make it a better place. With the right connections and just a little bit of resources, that same group can come up with creative, low-cost ideas for how to tackle issues on their own terms.
Of course, to do that, it's helpful to understand what exactly creative placemaking means and how to do it well. We've put together a little guide that explains the basics of the practice (to the left here). It's a good first step if you're interested in starting a placemaking project, but you'll probably learn even more from connecting with people who are already doing it.
If you're looking to learn from the experiences of people leading the creative placemaking charge, there are some great resources out there. One of our favorites is Creative Exchange, which tells stories of artists and arts groups getting engaged in their communities. They also offer a bunch of free toolkits for people wanting to start their own community arts projects - everything from organizing an artist health fair to organizing a block party. And if you need more help putting those projects together, they even offer low-cost consulting help. It's an amazing resource.
So is the National Endowment for the Arts' Exploring Our Town. This website profiles a ton of creative placemaking projects throughout the United States - with information about communities where work is happening and specifics of how creative placemaking projects have been put together. Plus, you can sort projects by what's been learned through the work ... So you can get detailed information about how to start a creative placemaking project in a variety of different settings, with a variety of different approaches.
In the weeks to come, we'll be gathering stories about grassroots creative placemaking in Buckeye and beyond. But in the meantime, whet your appetite with these great resources.