They sat in groups of two or three; leaning in, taking notes, gesturing with their hands as they articulated complex thoughts. Sharing ideas can sound like a cacophony, but it was really the music of connection.
More than 250 creative placemakers from 38 states convened in College Park, MD earlier this month to explore something that happens in every community: change. Plenary instructors Mary Miss of City as a Living Lab in New York City and Emmanuel Pratt of the Sweetwater Foundation of Chicago discussed how creative placemaking can call attention to environmental challenges in urban settings. Both instructors praised the networking they observed at the event.
"It's the network in this room that is the most promising thing," Miss said to a packed audience at the University of Maryland's School of Planning, Architecture and Preservation.
"I'm absolutely certain that there's a network being formed in this room," Pratt said.
The summit was the first of its kind to address creative placemaking across the entire nation. The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking presented the event in partnership with ArtPlace America and the University of Maryland's School of Planning, Architecture and Preservation. Topics included leveraging the experience economy, developing anti-displacement strategies and disrupting unjust systems through arts and culture.
The convening took place over three days in College Park, MD, a suburb of Washington, DC. On the third day participants visited three locations in the area for field workshops; the Pink Line Project in Washington DC; the Gateway Arts and Entertainment Corridor that connects College Park, Hyattsville, Brentwood and Mount Rainier; and Silver Spring Arts & Entertainment District. Each workshop allowed participants to practice newly learned skills to develop a charrette, a quick plan to improve the spaces through creative placemaking strategies.
Pratt and Miss delivered the plenary address on the second day, and instructors from all over the country offered workshops, seminars and panel discussions that included the following topics: communicating creative placemaking; disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline with art; storytelling at the intersection of identity; creative placemaking for public safety.
MilkBoy ArtHouse hosted the social event on the first night. The venue features emerging art and pop culture and is the only campus-community arts venue of its kind in the nation. The home-gown design of MilkBoy artHouse was inspired by UMD students and the community through a series of community "think-a-thons" that envisioned an enlivened College Park.
Summit instructors offered some sessions inside an art exhibition at the school's Kibel Gallery. ArtPlace America created the exhibit, entitled, "10 Sectors, 10 Solutions," that featured hanging tapestries of bright colors with information on projects that develop human-centered, contextual, and adaptive solutions to strengthen communities from within. ArtPlace America supported the projects, and each one focused on a community need that had traditionally been addressed through the community planning and development sectors: agriculture & food; economic development, education & youth, the environment and energy, health, housing, immigration, public safety, transportation, and workforce development. For more photos and information on the summit, please visit our recap page.
The following sponsors supported the summit: the National Endowment for the Arts, Cultural Planning Group, ArtPlace America, the University of Maryland's School of Planning, Architecture and Preservation, National Center for Smart Growth, Shelterforce, Civic Eye Collaborative, the Levitt Foundation, Metris Arts Consulting, the Educational Foundation of America and Art Works.