Creative Placemaking
MCC's Partnership with MassINC
MCC Creative Placemaking Partnership with MassINC
The Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) has joined MassINC in an expanded effort to use arts and culture as a means of jump-starting local economies and transforming communities in 11 Gateway Cities across Massachusetts. These older industrial communities have, throughout our history, been at the center of the state’s regional economies. In recent years, suburbanization, manufacturing decline, and other adverse trends have taken their toll and Gateway Cities have suffered. In response, efforts described as “creative placemaking” emerged over the past 20 years as a promising strategy for reinvigorating both public and private spaces through cultural endeavors. MCC has been at the forefront of those efforts through sustained investment in the nonprofit cultural sector in Gateway Cities and other communities across the Commonwealth.

Cover of Building Vibrancy: Creative Placemaking Strategies for Gateway City Growth and RenewalBuilding Vibrancy: Creative Placemaking Strategies for Gateway City Growth and Renewal
Generated by MassINC in July 2012, this report presents four high-level observations about this work:
  1. Creative placemaking is a geographically targeted urban revitalization strategy, but it also supports the state’s broader economic development goal of increasing innovation and entrepreneurship throughout the Commonwealth.

  2. Many Gateway Cities have deployed creative placemaking strategies and devised an impressive array of programs leveraging modest resources, making their communities better places for cultural entrepreneurs to do business in.

  3. The creative placemaking experience in Gateway Cities to date reveals both challenges and models. A review of these lessons can inform future initiatives. But more than anything, efforts to replicate success will require an increase in public funding to bring the creative placemaking strategy to scale.

  4. To advance creative placemaking, leaders from Gateway Cities must coalesce as a network and focus on five strategic focal points: money, capacity, leadership, entrepreneurship, and metrics. Collaborative support of MCC from leaders in Gateway Cities was highlighted as essential, along with convincing local governments to co-invest in creative placemaking efforts, fixing the Business Improvement District enabling law and getting property owners excited about forming them, and advocating for federal partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).
The full report is available on MassINC’s website.

Poll Shows High Participation/Strong Support for Arts and Culture Among MA City Voters
A January 2012 poll by the MassINC Polling Group found that seven in 10 voters in the 11 Massachusetts Gateway Cities consider community arts and culture very important, and 80% support government funding for such events. MCC has invested significantly in Gateway Cities through various grant programs for nonprofit cultural organizations, schools, and local cultural councils. In particular, MCC’s Adams Arts grants have helped cities such as New Bedford, Worcester, and Pittsfield put the arts at the center of their revitalization strategies. Read more about the poll.

Creative Placemaking Summit, April 2012
In April 2012, MassINC partnered with MCC and the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development to present a full-day conference at which creative placemaking experts gathered to discuss the future of the strategy in Gateway Cities. Teams representing each Gateway City attended to share visions for creative placemaking in communities, exchange ideas, and collect input. Formal remarks were delivered by John Robert Smith, president of Reconnecting America and former mayor of Meridian, Mississippi; and Anne Gadwa Nicodemus, author of a National Endowment for the Arts study on creative placemaking. Video and other materials from the summit are available on MassINC’s website.

New MassINC Website Offers Resources, Tools for Building Creative Communities
MassINC has created a placemaking page on its website that will serve as a clearinghouse of information on placemaking activities. It includes a link to the webcast of April’s summit on creative placemaking in Lowell, including all of the Summit presentations, posts to the ArtPlace blog, a link to the NEA’s webinar on their Livability Index work, and other helpful links. MassINC will continue to add information and updates on placemaking activities here and around the country to help the initiative in Massachusetts communities.

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