Community Development INVESTMENT REVIEW: Creative Placemaking


Research Abstract
Community Development INVESTMENT REVIEW: Creative Placemaking

While spending time here at the San Francisco Federal Reserve as a visiting scholar, Laura Callanan introduced us to a hidden world of practitioners transforming their communities through the arts—the world of “creative placemaking.”

Creative placemakers use the arts to “activate” places: storefronts, trails, abandoned railways, town centers, and main streets. As Jamie Bennett, executive director of ArtPlace America, writes in this issue: “In creative placemaking, ‘creative’ is an adverb describing the making, not an adjective describing the place. Successful creative placemaking is not be quantified by how many new arts centers, galleries, or cultural districts are built. Rather, its success is measured in the ways artists, formal and informal arts spaces, and creative interventions contribute toward community outcomes.”

Laura’s introduction to this new world got me thinking about the world that I usually occupy: community development. In this world, unfortunately, “community” is not an adverb describing the development; it’s more often an adjective describing the physical places where we work. This is no small thing. The community development industry continues to favor brick-and-mortar solutions, like affordable housing, over “soft” solutions like early childhood education. The result is more funding for real estate development and less for human capital alternatives. Thankfully, that may change thanks to the arts. Creative placemaking could be the bridge that finally moves the community development industry to, in the words of Nancy Andrews in a previous issue of this journal, the “nexus of people and place.”

This issue of the Community Development Investment Review explores creative placemaking: what it is, how it’s done, how it’s measured, funded, and experienced. The issue is divided into two parts. The first is composed of a series of articles written by practitioners, academics, and leaders in the creative placemaking field. The second profiles 16 ArtPlace America grantees. These profiles explain how creative placemaking actually works in the field.

As guest editor, Laura was the driving force behind this issue of the Review. I’m very grateful for her partnership and her willingness to so generously share her time, networks, and ideas with the community development team here at the San Francisco Federal Reserve. [Preface by Ian Galloway, p. 6]

Table of Content

Articles on Creative Placemaking:

Opportunity at the Intersection of Community Development and Creative Placemaking
by Ben Hecht, Living Cities

Creative Placemaking: An Interview With the Ford Foundation
by Darren Walker, Ford Foundation; Xavier de Souza Briggs, Ford Foundation

Five Roles for Arts, Culture, and Design in Economic Development
by Mary Jo Waits, Mary Jo Waits Associates LLC

Arts for the City: Community Arts and Affordability Innovations in San Francisco
by Edwin M. Lee, City of San Francisco ; Tom DeCaigny, City of San Francisco

The Meaning of the Creative Economy in Los Angeles
by  Samuel Hoi, Maryland Institute College of Art

Creative Placemaking: How to Do It Well
by Ann Markusen, University of Minnesota; Anne Gadwa Nicodemus, Metris Arts Consulting

Measuring the Economic and Social Impacts of Cultural Organizations
by Stephen Sheppard, Williams College

Assessing a Set of Indicators for Creative Placemaking: Reflections From the Field
by Elaine Morley, Urban Institute; Mary K. Winkler, Urban Institute

Financing Creative Places
by Gary Hattem, Deutsche Bank

Our Town: Supporting the Arts in Communities Throughout the United States
by Jane Chu, National Endowment for the Arts; Jason Schupbach, National Endowment for the Arts

Arts and Culture in Detroit: Central to Our Past and Our Future
by Rip Rapson, Kresge Foundation

Profiles in Placemaking: ArtPlace America Grantees

Creative Placemaking in Community Planning and Development:: An Introduction to ArtPlace America
by Jamie Bennett, ArtPlace America

Strengthening Economic Development

  • Town Square Anchor for a Changing Skyline
  • REVOLVE Detroit
  • Irrigate
  • Arts and Culture Temporiums

Seeding Civic Engagement

  • Sonoran Desert Retreat Center and Residences
  • Great Chicago Fire Festival
  • Creative Trails at the ARTery
  • Fairmount Cultural Corridor

Building Resiliency

  • Prattsville Center and Artist Residency
  • World Garden Commons
  • Art and Ecology Campus at Brightwalk
  • Design/Relief

Contributing to Quality of Life

  • SALT District
  • Follow the Light
  • Santo Domingo Heritage Trail Arts Project
  • The Porch at 30th Street Station


Artists and cultural institutions have an important role to play in neighborhood social and economic vitality. As community developers consider how best to reimagine space they can and should look to the arts to help create place. This work, otherwise known as “creative placemaking,” is beginning to take shape across the country. The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco is pleased to dedicate Volume 10, Issue 2 of the Community Development Investment Review to this emerging work.


Hech, Ben; Walker, Darren; de Souza Briggs, Xavier; Waits, Mary Jo; Lee, Edwin M.; DeCaigny, Tom; Hoi, Samuel; Markusen, Ann; Gadwa Nicodemus, Anne; Sheppard, Stephen; Morley, Elaine; Winkler,Mary K.;Hattem,Gary;Chu, Jane ;Schupbach, Jason;Rapson, Rip
Community Development Investment Review
Volume 10, Issue 2, 2014
December 2014

Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco
101 Market Street, Mailstop 215
San Francisco
CA, 94105-1530
United States