Thursday, May 21, 2015

Creative teams finding success through community coaching

By Leonardo Vazquez, AICP/PP

Several creative teams coached by The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking are already getting results.  Perth Amboy, Hackensack and Long Beach Island -- three New Jersey communities that have been involved in the community coaching program -- all have creative events scheduled for May and June.

The Perth Amboy Creative Team has succeeded in building a city Arts Council and changing a local law to make it legal to paint murals.  The Arts Council -- whose members are made up mostly of Creative Team members -- is now managing the city's art gallery and producing a waterfront festival on May 23.

Perth Amboy Arts Council members and artist Tom Ward show off Ward's artwork,
 which will be for sale at the waterfront festival. Image courtesy of Perth Amboy Arts Council
The festival furthers two key elements of the team's creative placemaking plan -- encourage more residents and visitors to enjoy the Perth Amboy waterfront and promote the wealth of local talent in the city.  According to the Council, "60 artists and artisans will display, demonstrate and sell their works along the scenic waterfront. Six musical acts will grace the festival stage. A food court will feature local restaurants and outrageous food trucks. There will be a pig roast!"

On May 28, Creative Hackensack will be sharing its vision for making the North Jersey city a better place through arts and culture: "Over the next decade, Hackensack will be more walkable, safer, healthier, greener, cleaner and more fun. Residents and visitors will have lots of choices of activities and find it easier to get around.  Over time, Hackensack will feature new attractions and attributes that will target its diverse population and visitors.

Hackensack will continue to be unique and eclectic; a diverse, inclusive and affordable place where people are friendly and have a strong sense of pride in their community.  Hackensack will do more to honor its diverse histories, from the time of the Lenni Lenape through the colonial period to today.  But it will also be modern and futuristic.

It will be a more vibrant, engaging and human-scaled city that offers good experiences day and night for families, college students, young adults (or mature adults who are young at heart).  Hackensack residents and visitors will have stronger connections to the Hackensack River."

Members of Howdy Stranger, one of several organizations involved in Creative Hackensack.
 Image courtesy of Howdy Stranger and Creative Hackensack.
To hear more about the vision and how it can be realized, please join a public meeting at 6:30 at the Johnson Public Library before an open mic night.  The open mic night was developed by a partnership between the local improv group Howdy Stranger and the Johnson Public Library.  This partnership happened because both organizations are involved with community coaching. 

Like many communities, Long Beach Island has more creative people and artists than many people realize.  The Creative Arts Action Council -- an island-wide creative placemaking group -- was formed in 2014 and will be producing an artists' studio tour on June 27 and June 28.  More than 120 artists are now involved with CAAC, and Long Beach Township received points through Sustainable Jersey for its involvement in developing the council. 

Community coaching is a unique program of NCCP proven to help build sustainable partnerships for creative placemaking. Diverse teams of at least 12 people work together for six to nine months on a creative placemaking plan and projects to help realize the plan.  (The plan is a set of strategies to address social and economic issues in the community through arts and cultural activities.)

NCCP has provided community coaching to 15 communities in New Jersey and Louisiana. Community coaching is available to individual communities within two hours of Newark, NJ.  We can also provide community coaching to a set of five or more communities in the same state anywhere in the United States.

For more on community coaching, please contact NCCP Executive Director Leonardo Vazquez by email or by phone at 973-763-6352

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