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How the 'creative placemaking' movement is transforming neighborhoods

Visitors to the April 2008 Brewery Art Walk in LA take a tour of the art in artist Dave Lefner's loft
Visitors to the April 2008 Brewery Art Walk in LA take a tour of the art in artist Dave Lefner's loft
Omar Kalifornia/Flickr/Creative Commons

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Gertrude Stein once said about her home of Oakland, "There's no THERE there," and many people believe that phrase could easily describe to southern California as well.

The region has often been stereotyped as a vast stretch of soulless suburbs and superficial shopping malls. But in recent years, new and vibrant spots that smash that stereotype have been popping up throughout the region. 

This coming Tuesday, will host a forum in North Hollywood to look at how we can transform spaces into places.

For a preview, Alex talks with urban planning and cultural policy specialist Maria Rosario Jackson who teaches cultural policy at Claremont Graduate University, who's also an appointee on the National Council on the Arts.

Click here to RSVP FREE to the event in Tuesday, May 27.

Interview Highlights

What is creative placemaking?

The idea of placemaking isn't new. In the urban planning field it was popular in the '70s as an approach to involve citizens more proactively in creating the places where they live and work. The idea of creative placemaking is more recent, and it is the intention of planning with the arts and creativity as a focal point in the community.

What are some examples of this?

"There are a few things that come to mind, some of them are buildings and specific spaces and some are neighborhoods or collections of places that gives you a sense that there's a pulse there. That there's a history, that there's an aspiration. So I think of, for example, Leimert Park, which is a neighborhood that has a lot of vibrancy, that has a history of artists playing a particular role there, there are also small businesses that I think reflect the heritage of the people in that place. That would be an example for me of a place where there's evidence of creative placemaking. These places aren't always perfect, they're not necessarily new and shiny, or designed intentionally with that purpose."

What makes these places different from other places?

"I think when there is an authentic expression of the people who live and work in a place, it shows. I don't have anything specifically against big businesses, however, what demonstrates the character of a place is more evident in businesses that are more unique. I think about where I live, and there's something about being able to walk down the hill and know who the business owners are, and be able to experience something that I may connect with, things that my neighbors may connect with."

Why are these places so important, especially in a city like Los Angeles?

"I think people don't understand Los Angeles...It's an easy place to not get, if you don't get off the freeway, you cannot get it. So for a place that has the kind of sprawl, I think it is really important to have neighborhoods and places that are authentically generated by the people who live there. So I do think that we are both creatures of our environment and we are active makers of our environment, and I'm not sure that we've taken the role as citizens that we've taken the role of making our environment as seriously as we should have."