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Creative Placemaking and the ‘Thinkness’ of Place

Authors: Mark Treskon*, Urban Institute
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: creative placemaking, place
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


While much has been made of the ways in which arts-focused and place-based interventions have been used as signifiers of gentrification and tools of displacement, practitioners doing this work are often aware of, and working to overcome, these tensions and build more equitable, inclusive, and transformative interventions. “Creative placemaking” techniques in particular have attempted to use the arts (in a broad sense) to bridge local divides, promote inclusive growth, and rethink inequitable systems.

However, small-scale interventions bear the weight of community history shaped by broader socio-economic forces. In other words, places are “think”, and groups working at the local level must balance their intended goals and need to prove their effectiveness within very real constraints. This paper draws on several ongoing case studies of creative placemaking interventions throughout the United States. I identify the approaches and challenges of this work, and I elaborate constraining factors related to the “thickness” of place that people and organizations working in this space are trying to work within or overcome. The goal is to focus on creative placemaking as it is actually practiced by those aware of its constraints, and to identify how stakeholders and activists work within those limits.

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