Building Capacity for Creative Placemaking

Written by Patricia Walsh at AFTA with additional comments provided by Jennifer Henaghan at APA and Jennifer Erickson at MAPC

Creative placemaking has been an ongoing discussion in cities and towns across the country for several years, but where do planners sit in this dialogue? What role does a planner have in the development of a creative placemaking strategy? How can planners incorporate creative placemaking ideas into their projects? Or encourage communities to implement these kinds of projects? As a national leader and the professional association for planners, the American Planning Association (APA) knows that tools are needed to help planners address these questions and more.

In 2017, APA was awarded a grant, called National Endowment for the Arts Our Town Knowledge Building, to do just that. The grant was also used to expand their Research KnowledgeBase, a free tools and information resource for their members and others to use when implementing a creative placemaking project.

To ensure a well-rounded and useful collection of resources, APA has teamed up with several organizations:

  • Americans for the Arts (AFTA), whose mission is to build recognition and support for the extraordinary and dynamic value of the arts and to lead, serve, and advance the diverse networks of organizations and individuals who cultivate the arts in America;
  • The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), the regional planning agency serving the people who live and work in the 101 cities and towns of Metropolitan Boston whose mission is to promote smart growth and regional collaboration; and
  • The Townscape Institute, a non-profit public interest planning organization that aims to support place meaning through conservation and visual enhancement of the built environments.

The development of the creative placemaking Research KnowledgeBase collection will take place in several phases:

  1. Field Survey: As we begin to collect and curate the creative placemaking resources we want to know what planners need to do their work. Keep a look out for a survey this February to help us understand your needs in the area of creative placemaking.
  2. On the Ground Exploration: MAPC will work with Natick, Massachusetts to help them develop a creative placemaking vision and strategy for the Natick Center Cultural District and to test the application of resources and best practices compiled by APA and AFTA. This work will help guide the development of tools to be incorporated into the creative placemaking KnowledgeBase.
  3. Field Testing and Training: With all the different pieces and parts that make up creative placemaking, APA will provide the opportunity to explore the resources collected and create a training module to help planners work through their projects.

With the aim to launch the full creative placemaking KnowledgeBase in early 2019, we look forward to engaging with planners and other allied fields as we collect and curate these resources to support and strengthen the planning field and its work with communities.

Photos provided by Athena Pandolf, Executive Director of Natick Center Associates