Art in transportation is not new. For many the first thing that comes to mind when you put “art” and “transportation” in the same sentence is public art installations in plazas, station areas or public rights of way. Public art that is spearheaded by community members or led in close collaboration with them is one type of creative placemaking, but there are others, too.
So what makes this process distinctive?
Partnerships are key. Creative placemaking is a process developed through mutually beneficial partnerships between local government, members of the community and artists.
Arts and culture are utilized as a process, not exclusively as an outcome. Creative placemaking taps arts and culture as a medium to achieve any number of goals. The process may include permanent art works or temporary installations, events or activities. For example, in response to local demand for safer streets and more green space, an artist might work with a group of community members to develop a beautiful renderings of a new park surrounded by complete streets infrastructure. These artistic renderings are not an end but a means to achieving the stated goal.
Improving participation and equity is a central goal. Creative placemaking puts a strong emphasis on intentionally and thoughtfully engaging populations — low-income people, communities of color, recent immigrants — that have traditionally been underrepresented in urban development and transportation planning processes.
The artist as a vessel for community vision. Creative placemaking differs from most mainstream traditional art in that partners work toward a vision or goal that is led by the community, rather than solely the vision of an artist. Think about artists like doctors; there are both specialists and general practitioners, and it is ideal to work with a general practitioner who will customize their approach to your place.
It is an iterative process that may require more time. Creative placemaking places artistic practices and local cultures at the nexus of helping communities create better places. Like most of the time when you’re trying to solve a new problem or meet a goal, it is non-linear and subject to change. While securing a public artist through a traditional process is relatively cut and dry, creative placemaking partners do a lot of brainstorming, testing and learning along the way. Because of this, it’s important to start small and assess risks.