Thursday, June 16, 2016

Arts help connect plans to people

By Leonardo Vazquez, AICP/PP

Creative placemaking can help bring more arts to communities. Arts can return the favor.

Consider this: The New Jersey cities of Perth Amboy and Hackensack have new creative placemaking plans.  In May and June 2016, the stewards of these plans brought them to arts festivals to raise awareness, get feedback, and generate interest.
US Congressman Frank Pallone (standing) reviews the Creative Perth Amboy plan
at the second annual Perth Amboy Waterfront Arts Festival, May 2016. The plan
 and the festival were produced by leaders of the Creative Perth Amboy team, who are
now part of the Perth Amboy Arts Council (another product of the planning effort)

Volunteers in Hackensack getting feedback on the Creative Hackensack vision plan
  during the CAT Walk art exhibition, June 2016.  Not only did this effort get
positive feedback on and ideas for the plan, at least 10 people signed up to get
more involved with the Hackensack Creative Arts Team and the plan 
The Perth Amboy plan was even treated like a work of art. The City held a one-day exhibit and reception for Creative Perth Amboy at the City's art gallery.  Large-scale maps from the plan and the vision were displayed on walls and easels.

An exhibit and presentation of Creative Perth Amboy at the
 Perth Amboy Gallery Center for the Arts, May 2016. There, Mayor Wilda Diaz
pledged to have the City implement and support the plan. 

It's not unusual for dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people to get involved in generating ideas for plans. But how many people actually read the final documents? Some planners do presentations of their final plans. But these tend to be quiet affairs, usually attended mostly by the people who had already been involved.  By making the plans part of arts events -- or making the plan presentation into an art event -- plan stewards can reach more people. And the planners, like the artists around them, can see if their work touches the hearts and minds of the public.

Note:  Both the Hackensack and the award-winning Creative Perth Amboy plans were developed through Community Coaching, a program of The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking. To learn more about this program, please contact NCCP Executive Director Leonardo Vazquez by email or at 973-763-6352.

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