Why Are Certain Neighborhoods Ideal Candidates for Creative Placemaking Funding?

We're beginning to detect a pattern here.

Just a few days after we asked "Why Is Kresge Taking Creative Placemaking Nationwide?" we stumbled upon news that the foundation made a similar investment in its proverbial backyard. Kresge awarded a $725,000 grant to the Greater Milwaukee Committee (GMC) to combine arts installations and activities with economic development in the Riverwest and Harambee neighborhoods.

Related - Three Reasons Why "Creative Placemaking" Represents the Future of Arts Funding

In fact, with so many creative placemaking grants as of late, we're now in a position to identify a set of commonalities across neighborhoods that have received creative placemaking grants. And, by extension, the logic follows that arts nonprofits and community stakeholders who work to emulate these conditions may find themselves in a better position to receive creative placemaking grants than those who do not.

So what, exactly, are some commonalities among areas that have received creative platemaking grants? Here are three:

The direct involvement of a deeply-rooted community organization.Kresge's recent nationwide creative platemaking grant didn't go to an arts nonprofit. Rather, it went to a group called the Local Initiatives Support Corporation. We, of course, have nothing against arts nonprofits, but groups like the LISC have close ties with the other types of community stakeholders needed to revitalize an area—politicians, engineers, architects, health officials, and so on. 

Not surprisingly, Kresge's grant to support creative placemaking in Milkwaukee went to a similar organization, the Greater Milwaukee Committee (GMC).

Success builds on success. Creative placemaking thrives on momentum. For example, ArtPlace America, another creative placemaking leader, cut a $150,000 check to Minneapolis' Arts on Chicago, an organization dedicated to developing communities and revitalizing neighborhoods through the arts, back in 2012. While the project succeeded in kickstarting a corridor in the city, there was still more work to be done. Worse yet, the grant money ran out. Fortunately, the Bush Foundation stepped in with a two-year Community Innovation Grant to see the creative placemaking project to fruition.

Our point is that many times, creative placemaking grants don't appear in a vacuum. Often they bookend or compliment an existing project that's already paying dividends or showing promise. This phenomenon is evident back in Milwaukee, where the Kresge grant builds on a $350,000 ArtPlace America grant previously given to the GMC for its "Creational Trails" project, which created temporary art installations and a night market in the city. 

Economic development is the goal. Don't get us wrong, there's nothing bad about supporting "art for art's sake." Yet creative placemaking is driven by a different organizing principle—boosting the economic fortunes of distressed neighborhoods. That's the primary goal of Kresge's gift to GMC, which will develop a part of town called the "Artery," creating a one-mile long park and bicycle trail along an abandoned railroad track. The Artery, planners hope, will catalyze economic development in the neighboring areas, which also happen to be the most economically depressed parts of the city.

The entire $725,000 Kresge grant will go to the development of The Artery.

Related - Why Is Kresge Taking Creative Placemaking Nationwide?