A panorama of Haas&Hahn's work in Colombia. Image by Haas&Hahn via Favela Painting
This post, written by Knight Foundation Arts Program Associate, Tatiana Hernandez, was originally published on the American for the Arts' Blog.
People have looked to the arts to help define their communities and create a sense of place for generations. So, why are we so excited about creative placemaking today? Perhaps it has something to do with context. In this digital world, many are reexamining the fundamental nature of “community” and our relationship to place. We now know, based on findings from the Knight Soul of the Community report, that social offerings, followed by openness and aesthetics explain why we love where we live. What does that tell us about the essential importance of our connection to place? “Vibrancy” is popping up as a way of describing the intangible nature of a neighborhood’s character. Here are three projects working to help define a sense of place in each of their communities.
Philadelphia has a strong tradition of mural work, and thanks to Mural Arts, artists and residents continue to come together to help define “home." As part of their Knight Arts Challenge project, Mural Arts brought two Dutch artists, Haas&Hahn, to North Philadelphia to live, work and engage the community around a large-scale mural that will span several blocks of Germantown Avenue. Known for their abstract, colorful work in Santa Marta (Rio de Janeiro), Haas&Hahn will involve residents in the actual painting. They will begin training “team leaders” this fall before tackling the challenge of painting Germantown Avenue. I recently spent a (wet!) morning in Philadelphia with Dre Urhahn. He explained to me why he and his partner, Jeroen Koolhaas, were attracted to abstract work. “Traditional [figurative] murals tend to tell the story of what a community is or has been, abstract images are more likely to inspire a community as to what it can be.”
More info on the Philadelphia project will be available in spring/summer 2012.
In San Jose, the fruits of over a decade’s worth of labor are beginning to shine through the growth of the SoFA district. ArtPlace, a consortium of foundations, government and corporate partners seeking to “accelerate creative placemaking across the U.S.” recently awarded a grant to help launch the ZERO1 Garage. Best known for its 01SJ biennial, a contemporary arts festival consisting of exhibitions, public art, performances and events that showcase innovative artists, the ZERO1 will use the Garage as a year-round laboratory for artists and amateurs alike - acting as a home base for the organization and anyone interested in experimenting with the blurring lines of art, technology, personal and public space. By choosing a space that was once an auto body garage, ZERO1 is bridging the old with the new - engaging in a generational conversation of place. The programming that goes on in the space and around SoFA and Gore Park will take that conversation into the future.
So, what do you do if you’re an established institution and you want to participate in creative placemaking? The Detroit Institute of Arts has an innovative approach that literally brings masterpieces into streets and parks across Greater Detroit. The Inside|Out program creates high quality replicas of key pieces from the collection and distributes them throughout communities, surprising residents and visitors alike. Imagine turning a corner on the way to your favorite coffee shop and spotting a Modigliani on the wall? It’s the type of creative placemaking that serves as a great example of how one institution can help to remind residents of the treasures they have at home.
There are limitless ways that we can approach creative placemaking but the key will be in how we engage communities through the arts, place-based or otherwise.
An example of how the Inside|Out program hangs pieces of art around a city. Image Courtesy of Detroit Institute of Arts