An Empty Space, a Virtual Place: Cultural Life and Creative Solutions in Besieged Cities

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The term “placemaking” has been used since the 1990s by the non-profit organization Project for Public Spaces based in New York. They define placemaking as “an overarching idea and a hands-on approach for improving a neighbourhood, city, or region, placemaking inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of every community”. “Placemaking can be basically summarised as the art of making better places for people”, although what makes a place “better”, why and how to make it better, lies at the core of the matter. The purpose of placemaking is to create places that bring people together. Lepofsky and Fraser argue that “place-making is participation in both the production of meaning and in the means of production of a locale”.
The expression “creative placemaking” was coined by Ann Markusen & Anne Gadwa in a report written in 2010 for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), where a broad, descriptive and encompassing definition was provided: “[i]n creative placemaking, partners from public, private, non- profit, and community sectors strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighbourhood, town, city, or region around arts and cultural activities. Creative placemaking animates public and private spaces, rejuvenates structures and streetscapes, improves local business viability and public safety, and brings diverse people together to celebrate, inspire, and be inspired.”. It is worth saying that the report was based on two decades of American placemaking activities involving artists and other related cultural workers who were engaged with local government, community members and even private entrepreneurial stakeholders in rehabilitating decaying urban neighbourhoods and other impoverished or otherwise declining spaces. Born out of a response to what has been named the Great Recession of 2008 (the subprime mortgage or the financial crisis), it has contributed to step off a creative placemaking grant program, “Our Town”, and inspired the promotion of similar activities even outside of the USA. The economic merits of such practices, already promoted by the original report, have certainly contributed to the success of creative placemaking, particularly when paired with the rise of the global city and the creative cities paradigm where cultural industries and artistic intervention has been seen as a catalyst for business and economic growth.6 This has often put creative placemaking under suspicion of serving a neoliberal agenda, but some have argued that creative placemaking may still lead to more just cities and community building, through "increased participation" of residents working with artists and cultural agents, activities that allow sharing knowledge and common experiences, contributing to an enhanced sense of place and, finally, to the creation of better public spaces.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-298
Number of pages9
JournalAMPS Proceedings Series
Issue number1
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - 18 Feb 2022
EventCities in a Changing World - Online, Nova Iorque, United States
Duration: 17 Jun 202119 Jun 2021


  • Cultural context
  • Cities
  • Creative solutions
  • Creation
  • Virtual place
  • A-Place
  • Space and Place


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