Expressions of arts and culture have helped inspire and connect our communities over the past several months, but innovative local governments have been utilizing artists' unique talents to address a wide range of issues for decades in the growing field of practice known as “creative placemaking”:
- Casting police officers as theater performers.
- Igniting imagination about stormwater and waste management.
- Activating public spaces and cultural assets.
In the wake of the year of unprecedented challenges, ICMA is excited to announce the release of Problem Solving Through Arts and Cultural Strategies, a new guide to creative placemaking for local government managers.
Generously supported by ArtPlace America, and developed in partnership with Civic Arts and a talented team of project advisors, this comprehensive resource demonstrates how leveraging the arts, culture, and community-engaged strategies can lead to innovative, creative, and more equitable solutions to challenges facing your community. It explores how outside-the-box processes can offer new ways for government staff and community stakeholders to communicate, build trust, and collaborate.
“As local government managers, we reach into our toolbox and find that the standard approaches just don’t work for the myriad complex problems and the issues surrounding equity and inclusion that we are experiencing today, writes ICMA Executive Director Marc Ott in a foreword to the guide. “Art enables us to come together from a place of empathy, compassion, and connection to create spaces for new opportunities.”
Michael Herbert, town manager of Ashland, Massachusetts—the site of a project featured in the guide—reflected on his experience with this new way of working. “We tend to focus on the technical aspects of our work and lose sight of why we got into public service in the first place. Conducting this work in my community was a great opportunity to take a painful part of our past and turn that into a positive future that the whole town could get behind. But that process was a very difficult one personally, and there were many nights that I had to dig deep and remind myself that the whole reason I wanted to do this job was to help develop a genuine spirit of community throughout the town. Engaging in this work is the difference between ‘administration' and leadership.’”
“We tend to focus on the technical aspects of our work and lose sight of why we got into public service in the first place.... I wanted to do this job to help develop a genuine spirit of community throughout the town. Engaging in this work is the difference between ‘administration' and leadership.”
Inside Problem Solving Through Arts and Cultural Strategies is varied content for those who are considering, launching, or continuing a creative placemaking journey with staff and partners. It illustrates roles artists can play in collaborative processes to solve community problems across a wide range of contexts, and provides guidance on navigating these processes from defining your opportunity to building the team to structuring and sustaining partnerships. The document is also full of case studies, testimonials, tools and prompts to help you consider how creative placemaking approaches might benefit your community.
The guide’s official release comes on the heels of UNITE conference sessions and an introductory webinar, with more outreach anticipated in 2021. Visit the guide’s landing page for links to these archives and other related content.