The Connecticut Council on Philanthropy recently hosted a Creative Place Making Funders Symposium in Hartford. The day was full of innovative examples of how communities are reborn through creative partnerships.
We heard from Carol Coletta, executive director of ArtPlace, who shared inspirational stories of success in using art to re-energize, remake, and rebirth the American city.
Threaded throughout Coletta’s discussion was the goal to “[invest] in art and culture at the heart of a portfolio of integrated strategies that can drive vibrancy and diversity so powerful that it transforms communities.” This goal is supported by overarching principles of successful placemaking.
After the forum, I returned to Connecticut Community Foundation (CCF) and looked around Waterbury with fresh eyes. Where were the opportunities to promote economic diversity and a more integrated community through art?
This summer, CCF sponsored a community mural effort that was part of a statewide City Canvases Initiative. Local volunteers merged at the Palace Theatre to build the 900-foot “Cool Waters” mural downtown. A Waterbury Observer reporter described the public response to the project [as] “pure joy.” While the mural did not fully encompass the principles of creative placemaking, it reflected a trend to improve downtown through community collaboration.
The Freight Street Gallery in Waterbury has been working on this for several years. Inhabiting a second floor space in a dilapidated factory corridor, Freight Street features local artists, musicians, and an outdoor “handmade marketplace.” So how do we, as a community foundation, help bring these efforts to the next level and facilitate creative placemaking?
This question presents a challenge that requires openness to private public funding collaborations and energy to motivate members of the art and economic development community to take the next step. Most importantly, whatever creative placemaking looks like for Waterbury, we should ensure that it includes a vision of economic integration that supports and reflects the diversity of our community.
Ellen Carter is a program officer at the Connecticut Community Foundation