Spatial Justice Discussion Series

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Spatial Justice Discussion Series

Public spaces are not neutral.

They are steeped in histories of exclusion and oppression. For many who identify as Black, Indigenous, and people of color, public space is anything but public.  

What does it mean to shape public spaces that support the rights of BIPOC to be, thrive, express, and connect? What lessons can we learn from the nation’s ongoing current reckoning with racism as we consider the future of public spaces in Greater Boston? 

In summer 2020, MAPC teamed up with the Design Studio for Social Intervention and New England Foundation for the Arts to explore the role that planners, artists, and organizers can play in promoting spatial justice in Greater Boston and beyond. Culminating in a series of artist-led discussions, the collaboration considered what it means to decenter whiteness in the planning, programming, and design of public spaces.  

“Whose Public? Planning and Placemaking for Welcoming Public Spaces” was a three-part online discussion series that explored the role that planners, artists, and government staff can play in shaping just, joyful, and inclusive public spaces. We heard from artists, activists, planners, and community leaders who are leading the way in spatial justice and learned practical steps to making the public spaces more welcoming for all. 

This series took place weekly on Tuesdays from August 18 through September 1, 2020. 

Scroll down to learn more.

For questions or more information about the project, please contact Emma Boast,

Watch Now

We want to thank everyone who participated in this series. Your contributions in the chat and discussion groups helped bring these conversations to life. For those who could not join us, please find a compilation of resources here and videos of each conversation below.

Part I: What is Spatial Justice? Principles of Planning for Welcoming Public Spaces 

August 18, 2020 | 2 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. ET

What is spatial justice, and how can cities and towns use this framework to rethink how their built environment supports people’s rights to be, thrive, express and connect? What role can artists and public art play in helping us imagine and shape more inclusive, thriving public spaces throughout Greater Boston? Join a lively discussioamong artists, activists, and urbanists who are leading the conversation about spatial justice in our region today. 


Part II: Making it Public: Activating Spaces for Creativity, Connection, and Celebration

August 25, 2020 | 2 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. ET

How can public-making—the collective creation and activation of public spaces for interaction and belonging—be a radical, joyful tool for spatial justice? Join artists, activists, and community leaders to discuss how public-making can create opportunities for interaction, laughter, dialogue, and surprise, and explore real-life examples of public-making that you can bring to your community. 


Part III: Public Works: Planning and Designing Public Spaces for Spatial Justice

September 1, 2020 | 2 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. ET

Not all public spaces are created equal. Transformative planning and urban design begin with addressing historic and current experiences of racism and exclusion. But what does that mean in practice? Join the conversation with creative community leaders about what it means to design for spatial justice. We’ll explore how skate parks, sidewalk kitchens, and “dance courts” can change how public space is used, who feels welcome in it, and how inclusive creative placemaking can help lead the way toward lasting spatial justice.



Whose Public? is co-organized by the Arts & Culture Department at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the Design Studio for Social Intervention, and the Public Art Department at New England Foundation for the Arts. 

These events are part of “Public Art, Public Places,” an ongoing series of cross-sector convenings and communities of practice for planners, artists, culture bearers, and community leaders. Click here to learn more. 

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