Arts and Culture at the 2018 APA National Planning Conference

Arts and Culture at the 2018 American Planning Association National Planning Conference

Article Written by Michael Rosenberg


This April, planners from all over the world gathered in New Orleans, Louisiana for the 2018 National Planning Conference (NPC18) hosted by the American Planning Association (APA). An opportunity for planners to network and engage in sessions and workshops, the APA Conference welcomed over 5,700 attendees from all 50 states and 22 countries.

With 274 sessions and 47 mobile workshops, there was a lot going on during the week of the conference. Among those in attendance were staff from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), including Arts & Culture Manager Jennifer Erickson. This year’s conference program included a large number of sessions focused on arts and culture. The subject is getting increasing attention from the APA – the APA Regional and Intergovernmental Planning Division (RIPD) identified arts and culture as one of three FY19 programmatic priorities and the Association recently recently formed an Arts and Planning Interest Group (APIG). Jennifer Erickson, along with the APA’s Jennifer Henaghan serve as the co-founders of the APIG, which held its third social at the conference. APIG is a national network of planners who care about identifying, developing, and refining policy and planning tools that promote the integration of arts and culture into community development and planning.

In this post, we share highlights from  a number of the annual conference’s exciting sessions. Two sessions stood because the arts and culture planning issues they covered were relevant to those we are facing in the Boston Metropolitan region. Mirroring some of the themes touched upon in the latest of MAPC’s three-part Art and Culture Discussion Series, co-hosted by New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA), the sessions discussed how art and culture are the cornerstones of our societies, helping people beyond the visual realm. “Art, Mitigation, and Planning. Oh My!” and “Cultural Planning in New Orleans Neighborhoods” both provided evidence of the widened effects arts and culture have in the planning field, inspiring interaction, fostering community, and boosting morale.

Art, Mitigation, and Planning. Oh My!

Speakers Joseph M. Barris, John Heide, and Lori Foley explored the incorporation of arts and culture into the larger planning field through various means, including protecting cultural heritage, preserving cultural resources, and using art as a form of disaster relief to help a community heal.

The speakers highlighted their innovative work in Monmouth County, New Jersey where they have integrated arts and culture into various county plans, and most recently utilized Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding to engage arts and culture in improving community resiliency in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

Head over to the Monmouth County website to see slides from the presentation.

Cultural Planning in New Orleans Neighborhoods

Guide Ethan Ellestad, Executive Director of the Music & Culture Coalition of New Orleans, led this mobile workshop that explored New Orleans’ vibrant music culture and the ongoing displacement of musicians and artists. This tour showcased locations that portrayed the successes and challenges that city planners and artists, activists, culture bearers, and musicians have faced in the fight to combat this displacement.

Too often, arts and culture initiatives attract new investments and trigger tightened regulations that can cause inadvertent displacement and threaten the livelihoods of artists and culture bearers who have deep connections to places. The session explored this issue and posed the question: how can artists, culture bearers, and municipal staff work together to change policies and support positive outcomes that protect the heritage, music, and culture of New Orleans?

MAPC at the APA Conference

MAPC was also directly involved in two sessions this year, Regional Planning for Arts and Culture and Planner-Artist Partnerships for Creative Placemaking. The first session focused on the emerging trend of viewing arts and culture as a regional issue and featured a panel with MAPC’s Jennifer Erickson, Stephen Ostrander, senior planner from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, and Ben Bakkenta, senior program manager with the Seattle-region Puget Sound Regional Council. The second session shared information on a partnership between MAPC, the APA, and Americans for the Arts (AFTA) for Creative Placemaking Knowledge Building, during which the APA announced its new Creative Placemaking Knowledgebase project and MAPC shared how our application of resources from APA, AFTA, and the Knowledgebase is being piloted in a creative placemaking project in the Town of Natick, Massachusetts.

Learn more about MAPC’s arts and culture initiatives on the Arts & Culture blog and the Arts & Culture webpage!

About the author:

Michael Rosenberg is finishing his Masters of City Planning at Boston University while interning with Metropolitan Area Planning Council’s Arts and Culture Division.