When people ask us about plans for Greater Kennedy Plaza, it is nearly impossible not to bring up the idea of Creative Placemaking. This term is not only the cornerstone for the NEA Our Town Initiative happening in GKP this year, but a framework for much of what we do—from food trucks to Storytime, from the Tape Art tear-down to the Burnside Park Beer Garden. So what exactly is Creative Placemaking? As Ann Markusen and Anne Gadwe state in the NEA’s 2010 report:
In creative placemaking, partners from public, private, non-profit, and community sectors strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, city, or region around arts and cultural activities. Creative placemaking animates public and private spaces, rejuvenates structures and streetscapes, improves local business viability and public safety, and brings diverse people together to celebrate, inspire, and be inspired.
Creative Placemaking projects can happen anywhere, from rural communties to major cities, from a single park, or city corner, to an entire neighborhood. At their core, these projects are major collaborative efforts to reinvision community spaces and to leverage local arts and culture to transform them. There are great examples across the nation, including:
Bryant Park, where a underused green space, for year a haven for crime, was transformed into a park that inspires use, programming and community gathering all year long
the Irrigate project in Saint Paul, which has connected businesses, artists and the community to create a vibrant, artscape for 6 miles along the Central Corridor light rail line
Philadelphia Mural Arts program which, with the help of hundreds of local artists and some 20,000 underserved youth, has contributed nearly 3,000 murals to Philadelphia’s inner city.
There is no shortage of examples of the work of Creative Placemaking in Providence, in fact Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, calls our city “ground zero for Creative Placemaking”. During his visit earlier this month Rooco, spent a packed day touring the state and talking about many of the projects that have shaped our city—from AS220, frequently held up as a model of this process, to WaterFire to the City’s Neighborhood Performing Arts Initiative , Riverzedge and now, Greater Kennedy Plaza.
Here at GKP we are constantly thinking about what defines truly great places, what makes a place feel special, and brings people together and inspires creativity. As we prepare to start Our Town programming and design this summer, we are looking forward to figuring out our own model of creative placemaking in Providence’s core.