It has become clear that technocratic solutions to community problems don’t work if they are not implemented within a broader and more human-centered framework. People and communities do not exist in a vacuum.
We create communities that separate us from each other, wall us in (sometimes literally), and give us the illusion that we are safe. Similarly, we think that economic success is based on evermore impressive technology that gives us evermore goods and services at evermore lower prices.
Well, based on this paradigm we grew and we grew and we grew, and we’ve ended up in a place that doesn’t look or feel like someplace we want to be. Our communities are stale and boring or they are hazardous to our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. We separate from each other and find that our world is worse for it.
In the midst of this, some began to rethink success on a human scale. They wanted to be attached to their families, their neighbors, their communities and they cared about building better and more true lives and stronger and more vibrant places.
One of the things we sidelined in our quest for just more stuff was beauty, creativity, connections, and caring. But then something remarkable happened. People began to notice that communities and places that valued personal connections and cared about richness of life were the places that were surviving and thriving. This happened in big cities and small towns. So here we are with lots of failures remaining but also places that are moving the needle in the right direction. It has become clear that places that embrace culture (and not just their own), arts, creativity, and, ultimately, place are doing the best job of making our lives better and richer.
I like to add shared history to this list. I think it is increasingly important today especially given the recent election that demonstrated that many reject that shared history. If we refuse to look at both the good and the bad of this shared experience we become more distant from each other. We have to understand how we got to where we are and how we can address past wrongs and failures.
This is not rocket science but it takes work and dedication and time. At this point in my life what I want to do is be a part of this process, this creative placemaking.
Here are some good links on creative placemaking:
- Artscape’s DIY Placemaking Lab with toolkit
- ArtPlace’s video on creative placemaking
- Places Journal – MIT and UC-Berkeley academic resources
- The Project for Public Places resource articles
- Ann Markusen & Anne Gadwa’s seminal overview of creative placemaking
- ArtPlace America’s library of creative placemaking resources
- Links from the National Association of Arts Agencies (NASAA)