Tuesday, November 29, 2016

2016 Knowledge Exchange worth the trip for creative placemakers

By Leonardo Vazquez, AICP/PP

As Executive Director of The Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation, which supports free outdoor music around the United States, Sharon Yazowski is a busy person.  But even though she was speaking on stage for only seven minutes, it was worth her time to travel five hours from Los Angeles to Newark, NJ for the Creative Placemaking Knowledge Exchange.

“This was my first time participating in CPKE and I found it extremely valuable—the formats for sharing outcomes, experiences, and insights were conducive to maximizing the collective knowledge of attendees.  It was wonderful to connect with others in the field and learn about their impactful work, while also having fluid discussions throughout the day about the challenges many of us are trying to address through our creative placemaking efforts.”

Newark Museum's Steven Kern speaking
Ms. Yazowski wasn't the only long-distance traveler to The Art of Healthy Communities: the second annual Creative Placemaking Knowledge Exchange,  Among the 125 people who attended the November 11 event were visitors from throughout the US and as far away as Canada and Australia.

The event, produced by The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking and PlanSmart NJ, at the New Jersey Institute of Technology featured talks and community conversations on six topics in creative placemaking.

Many of them touched on the key theme of creative placemaking and public health. After lunch, participants learned about Voices of Valora music that serves veterans with PTSD, and heard songs composed by vets and musicians.  Brian F. Dallow, the Executive Director of Music for All Seasons, which created Voices of Valor, was the lunchtime speaker.  In the afternoon, participants led conversations on topics that they offered and selected themselves.

"I very much enjoyed the Knowledge Exchange and thought it was worth traveling for," said Clay Frickey, a City Planner for the City of Fort Collins, CO.  Mr. Frickey was also a presenter. "It is really nice seeing what other municipalities are up against and the Knowledge Exchange is a great way to make connections to discuss these issues."

Other participants enjoyed it too. A participant satisfaction survey shows:

  • 99% said the conference was informative.
  • 95% said they enjoyed the conference.
  • 92% said they would attend the Knowledge Exchange again.
  • 88% said the Knowledge Exchange was as good as or better than other academic or 'big idea' conferences they have attended.
  • 86% said there was enough time for networking.
  • 83% said they would recommend the Knowledge Exchange to others.
  • 83% said there was enough time for conversations.
  • Everyone who participated in Open Space conversations found them informative and enjoyable.*

"I was truly inspired by the conversations and presentations and am looking forward to expanding my network through the new contacts that I met and conversations that I started," said Melanie Stewart, Associate Dean and Professor of Theatre and Dance at Rowan University's College of Performing Arts. She also co-chairs Creative Glassboro (NJ).

"I was especially impressed by the international interest and concern for healing communities especially now in a context where we really need to come together as a country.  I hope that our work will have real impact in achieving a healthier path forward."

The morning presentations covered these topics:
  • Community building
  • Research, evaluation and outcomes
  • Healthy aging
  • Youth health and engagement
  • Dance, performance and community
  • Healthy creative partnerships
Knowledge Exchange participants are encouraged to share their
insights and experiences
Each presenter spoke for seven minutes, and there was about a half-hour of peer exchange conversation.  Participants asked questions or spoke about their own experiences, adding their insights to those of the formal presenters.

In the Open Space portion of the convening, eventgoers talked about such things as community engagement, creative placemaking and community development during the Trump administration, language in and as space, gentrification, and how to maintain the knowledge sharing after the event.

"My favorite component of the event was the open sessions at the end," Mr. Frickey said. "While mine was the least explicitly 'placemaking' focused conversation, we had a nice discussion with divergent opinions that have stuck with me since the Knowledge Exchange.  It's always nice talking with people about things they are passionate about in a less structured format."

The 2016 Knowledge Exchange was sponsored by New Jersey Health Initiatives, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation,  Atlantic Health System, American Planning Association New Jersey chapter, Montclair State University, and Shelterforce magazine.  ArtPride NJ, South Jersey Cultural Alliance and the Northern New Jersey Community Foundation partnered in promoting the event.  Additional support came from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts Our Town program. 

NCCP will hold its next conference -- the Creative Placemaking Leadership Summit -- on May 5, 2017 at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, NJ.  To get updates on the Leadership Summit, join the NCCP mailing list.

Participants choose what they want to talk about in the Open Space portion
of the Creative Placemaking Knowledge Exchange

*24 respondents completed the survey.

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