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You know the picture-

You’re driving down an aged, potholed street.  To your left stands a massive warehouse, abandoned for at least a decade.  Windows are punched out and more spray paint graffiti is visible than the original paint job.  To your right are old storefronts.  No one occupies them, either.  The business owners defaulted on the rent and the landlord couldn’t find anyone to fill them.

Photo credit: giulian.frisoni / Foter.com / CC BY

Photo credit: giulian.frisoni / Foter.com / CC BY

But the worst part about it all is the people walking down the street.  Their faces are as empty as the buildings they drudge past.  They haven’t seen prosperity or hope in a long time, and you can see it in the way they dress and the way they move past each other without even noticing the other human beings.  It’s like a graveyard, but the dead are walking around trying to find sustenance.

This is the part of town where no one ever stops at stop signs.

It’s a really sad thing to see, but economists are actually optimistic about the future for urban centers.  Areas like this aren’t doomed all because of a method that is becoming the buzz in city planning:

Creative Placemaking.

What is Creative Placemaking?

Ann Markusen of Markusen Economic Research Services defines Creative Placemaking like this-

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.

In other words, changing the level of art which is present in an area will change the area itself in positive ways.  Bringing in art and creative businesses will change a dead sector of the city into a place where people want to work and live.

These are examples of what creative placemaking looks like on a city block:

  • A mural goes up on the large wall of a storefront.
  • A concept series of sculptures is put up all around the block.
  • On one side of the block is a new theatre.
  • Someone runs a musical training school.

What Impact Does Creative Placemaking Have on Broken Sectors?

Art creates economic boosts for the non-creative businesses nearby, as well.  As more people move to the area because of its aesthetics, there will be more cash flow and more jobs created.

Second, the spiritual benefits.  With Creative Placemaking, Christian artists have a venue to put their art on display and indirectly improve the well-being of the people in the area.  It is nothing short of using the talents God has given us to care for the poor and needy.

And as those artists invest in their community and build relationships with the people, there is even more opportunity to share the goodness of God.

Third, this method of urban development supports local artists who are already part of the community.  When the city funds projects, the artists can bring in revenue for their work.  And as their work becomes well-known in the city, they can support themselves entrepreneurially or through curation at a local gallery.

Plus, when local artists have lucrative methods to create their art, the public will have more opportunities to participate in cultural events.

Fourth, is a little thing I like to call collaboration.  Collaboration generates excitement and makes everybody more creative.  If you have all kinds of creative people in close proximity, daily building the community with their work, they’ll come up with new and better ideas than they would have on their own.  And they’ll be more productive in a sort of healthy competition.

This is flourishing, and it is one of the things God created us to do.

#Collaboration generates excitement and makes everybody more #creative. Click To Tweet

How Do We Implement Creative Placemaking?

Generally speaking, the city usually funds Creative Placemaking.  But this is a magazine about how the church can build the city-community.

So with a Creative Placemaking mindset, the church would take these steps:

  1. Identify broken sectors in the city which lack in jobs, income per capita, spiritual development, and are high in crime, prostitution, homelessness.
  2. Identify artists and entrepreneurs within their church and other churches.  Begin speaking with them about the restoration of the broken sector.
  3. Talk with the city about licenses for public art displays and building permits, etc.  Learn what will be allowed by the city.
  4. Raise funds with other churches, businesses, and benefactors.  These funds will be used to pay artists for their work, to be given as seed money for creative businesses, and other overhead costs.
  5. Build a comprehensive plan with the network of artists and leaders you’ve created.  Collaborate to come up with concepts and solutions to community problems in the broken sector.
  6. Plant churches in the area, as well as support the artists and entrepreneurs who are beginning to build their contributions according to the comprehensive plan.
  7. Put together a community festival which celebrates the new development in the sector.

Obviously, this is not a small task, nor is it simple.  Each bullet point probably deserves 7 or 8 sub-bullets because each step is so complex.

Build a comprehensive plan with the network of #artists and #leaders you've created. Click To Tweet

It will take a lot of work, risk, and commitment.  But in the end, we remember that the Holy Spirit spoke through Paul when He said this, “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.”

We obey God’s command to love our neighbors when we build up the community providing jobs and better housing through efforts like Creative Placemaking.

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