We creative placemakers are good at helping people when times are tough. But we’ve never seen a time like this, and we can’t or shouldn’t use one of our most important tools -- bringing people together in a place.
We’ll have a lot to offer when we’re at the end of the coronavirus crisis.
We can help people heal emotionally and become more resilient. We can organize activities that celebrate the heroes, remember our losses, commemorate our joining together as a community, empower those who are still afraid, and remind ourselves of what we share -- places and spirits.
By working with partners in community development, social services, cultural organizations, and businesses, we can help lead economic recovery efforts in our communities. The activities we organize can help local restaurants, stores and arts and cultural organizations, and their patrons and employees. We can work with colleagues in other neighborhoods, towns and regions to encourage more people to visit one another’s places. That way, they can spend more money in stores, theaters, museums, galleries, restaurants and bars than online.
We’re not there yet. Right now, it’s probably too early to plan that far ahead. Right now, people are scared and thinking about what else may happen tomorrow.
Shortly after Superstorm Sandy damaged so much of New Jersey in 2012, I tried to do creative placemaking planning in Long Beach Island, a place slammed by the storm. Moments into a meeting with community partners, I knew it was too soon to be there. People were focused on getting through each day. We eventually worked through it, but it took a long time to feel right.
For now, care for your loved ones and your community. Support your local arts and cultural organizations, and your local artists, as much as you can, without taking unnecessary risks. If local performers are doing shows online, watch, and offer a donation. Check the websites of local artists, designers and makers. If you like something, buy it. Donate to your local cultural organization. Order takeout or delivery from local restaurants. When it’s safe, visit your local museums, galleries and theaters.
Here’s something else you can do: get prepared to lead in the healing, recovery, and restoration when the crisis is over. (I hope you know that when I speak of leadership, it’s more about ‘walking with’ than ‘standing in front of’.)
We at The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking are working hard to support you in this path. We are gearing up online offerings in economic development, resilience, leadership, and other tools to help you help others. We will do what we can to keep you more informed, connected, inspired, and empowered.
Please stay safe. If you or a loved one has tested positive for the coronavirus, we wish you a speedy recovery. If you’ve lost a job or income, we stand with you and your advocates to get more help. If you’re lucky enough to be healthy and home, please join us in helping our community of creative placemakers.