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Making places and keeping culture

Nov. 14 discussion explains the “placemaking” trend using art and culture to redevelop public spaces

What makes a “place?”

Placemaking – the emerging term for a set of practices in which art and culture work intentionally to help to transform a public space – has become an exceedingly hot topic among American arts and culture leaders.

Also referred to as “creative placemaking,” this is the new and fast-growing approach to enhancing community and economic development through arts and culture.

But what happens when artists decide to live or work in your neighborhood? Do they find what’s absent and fill in the vacancies, upgrade what’s already there, or transform things beyond recognition?

Advocates of placemaking see artists as catalysts for growth and culture keepers who move neighborhoods forward. They see themselves as part of a movement that reimagines public spaces at the heart of every community, a transformative approach and a philosophy that inspires people to create and improve their public places.

Detractors of placemaking criticize it as a synonym for gentrification and other forms of neighborhood development that displace residents and institutions that signified community in public and private places.

To help explain how placemaking is impacting community redevelopment and shaping artistic practices, as well as identify placemaking activity in Houston, the Center for Arts Leadership is hosting a conversation between a national placemaking advocate and a local placemaking grant maker.

What It Really Takes for Art to Drive Placemaking: A Conversation between ArtPlace America’s Jamie Bennett + Houston Arts Alliance’s Jonathon Glus will be on Friday, November 14, 2014, at 9:30 a.m. at University Center Theater, 4800 Calhoun.

This event is free and open to the public. Please register to attend.

This is one of three public discussions scheduled for Nov. 14 that Mr. Bennett will lead. He also will meet with graduate students in arts leadership, planning and architecture from UH and Texas Southern University, as well as present Placemaking for Planners at the Architecture Center Houston. The third event is co-sponsored by AIA Houston, Architecture Center Houston and American Planners Association, Houston Section and the discussion will be tailored to the interests of urban planners, architects and city officials.

Mr. Bennett has been the executive director of ArtPlace America since January 2014. Before his appointment, he was Chief of Staff at the National Endowment for the Arts and Chief of Staff at the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

Mr. Glus is the executive director of the Houston Arts Alliance, nonprofit agency established by the City of Houston to enhance the quality of life and tourism by advancing the arts in the Houston region. HAA curates and manages the City of Houston’s civic art collection and distributes annually more than $3 million in grants to nonprofit arts organizations and individual artists.

- By Shannon Buggs