All across the globe, cities are attempting to heal and recover from decades of urban planning that prioritizes cars over people. A new field called Creative Placemaking is at the heart of this movement. The Canadian leaders of this field are Toronto’s Artscape that defines Creative Placemaking as “an evolving field of practice that intentionally leverages the power of the arts, culture and creativity to serve a community's interest while driving a broader agenda for change, growth and transformation in a way that also builds character and quality of place.”
I’ve spent the last two months engaged in a course on Creative Placemaking. And this experience gave me an appreciation of the incredible cultural assets at work in Riversdale: artists, studios, galleries and artist-run centres all exist here, in addition to a number of agencies who use art/culture programming in their work. We've got a mix of businesses, organizations, non-profits, a thriving creative class, ethnic and economic diversity, proximity to the river, a Farmer's Market—all the ingredients of a “natural cultural district" that other communities around the world literally invest thousands and millions of dollars trying to replicate.
Throughout this course, I’ve been looking at how Creative Placemaking can respond to the unique opportunities and challenges in Riversdale. Interesting and creative precedents exist all over the world: Broken City Lab's projects around North America empower artists to be change makers and their Neighborhood Time Exchange could be an interesting model for Riversdale. A project like Stories of Ours could offer Riversdale residents an opportunity to have a voice, take steps to cross cultural borders and begin building relationships. Just watch Theaster Gates’ TED Talk about art in his Chicago neighbourhood. It was moving, to say the least.
Closer to home, Riversdale Love is developing a project for our neighbourhood that will animate our cultural spaces and make use of the incredible talent here. Countless studies show the benefits of integrating art into a neighbourhood at the grassroots level, where the community itself participates and leads the process of creative engagement.
In a community like Riversdale, art can be part of everyday life—a process (not product) that allows us to engage with neighbours, experience new things and meet new people. Maybe that means creating art with your neighbours or watching a performance at Gordon Tootoosis Nikaniwin Theatre. Even if you’re reluctant to get your hands splattered with paint, know that Creative Placemaking adds to the distinctiveness of a neighbourhood and infuses a place with character in a way that can be felt by all.
Be part of this movement by keeping up with Riversdale Love online. In 2016, we’ll be hitting the streets with some interesting events that start bringing these ideas to life.
1) Stories of Ours, 2) Neighbourhood Time Exchange, 3) "Subway Boy" Near DeKalb Ave Station, a mural by Joe Iurato for The Bushwick Collective