The arts have always been an important mechanism of integration and a valuable tool in community-based building, particularly in urban and diverse settings. Economically based studies indicate that the arts are a secure investment for urban centers and are habitually supported and championed by the community in times of both economic growth and fiscal difficulty.

Intermedia Arts, a catalyst in the development of art-based approaches, by building an understanding among people through solving social, economic and political issues in urban communities, carries the slogan Art. Changes. Everything. Through this initiative, it sets out to do just that: foster community change via people-centered approaches and community engagement to create vibrant urban places. In partnership with the City of Minneapolis’ CPED – Planning Division, Creative CityMaking is undertaking the creative collaboration between local artists and urban planners in order to examine the impact on “placemaking, vibrancy, and community change.” Through the selection and pairing of 4 local artists/city planners, the project seeks to develop an original and fresh approach for “addressing the long-term transportation, land use, economic, environmental, and social issues facing Minneapolis, Minnesota.”

The initiative, which is made possible with the support from ArtPlace, contains four key ingredients as pointed out in this graphic, including: Artists, Community Voice, Neighborhood Organizations, and City Plans.

Based on the overall initiative, the main GOALS (taken from the Creative CityMaking website) are to:

  1. Develop new creative strategies for community planning;
  2. Create a laboratory and learning environment for artists and City staff;
  3. Increase artists’ and planners’ ability to facilitate community change;
  4. Provide new tools for community engagement and working with under-represented communities;
  5. Document and communicate lessons learned.

The approach of utilizing the arts and local artists as a tool to increase the understanding of social issues in urban and diverse communities, will give more people the sense of trust and ownership in changes occurring in their own neighborhoods, and more importantly, will provide an incentive to become directly involved and have their voices be heard. The Creative CityMaking initiative sets out to accomplish just that via people-centered approaches to community development and placemaking.

Nonetheless, the arts have proven to be more than just a minor player in community development and are a valuable approach in recognizing identity, culture, and tradition on a local scale; resulting in successful bottom-up community building. Do you agree with this approach and in what ways have the Arts become successful catalysts for Economic Development in your community?

Credits: Image by author. Graphic courtesy of Intermedia Arts. Data linked to sources.