The Creative Corner: 'Placemaking' is in process here in Wadena

Essentially, placemaking is a strategy and effort to realize the benefits of creativity and place-based identity in a town.

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Monthly column from Lillian Norman, Lead for Minnesota fellow serving the city of Wadena.
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The last two columns preceding this one focused on the economic and social benefits of creating a Creative Community Plan for the City of Wadena. In each column, I provided a sampling of the many benefits that supporting and planning the area’s creativity would provide. For this column, I want to focus on a term that has been floating around the economic and community development realm for the past decade or so, although it has only started to truly catch on now. That term, a term that describes much of the work that I have been doing in town, is called, “placemaking.”

Placemaking has many definitions depending on which organization you are getting it from, although they all have the same concept at their core—the concept of place. For example, an organization called “Project for Public Spaces,” defines placemaking as: “(A) collaborative process by which we can shape our public realm in order to maximize shared value. More than just promoting better urban design, placemaking facilitates creative patterns of use, paying particular attention to the physical, cultural, and social identities that define a place and support its ongoing evolution.” Another definition of placemaking, created by economist Ann Markusen and urban planner Anne Gadwa, is when, “partners from public, private, non-profit, and community sectors strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, city, or region around arts and cultural activities.” Essentially, placemaking is a strategy and effort to realize the benefits of creativity and place-based identity in a town.

Regardless of the definition that one uses, placemaking has been identified as vital to the future of towns; so much so that the United States Department of Agriculture recently released a toolkit for towns to take advantage of it, as well as partnered with the University of Kentucky for a national virtual conference in May. Continually, placemaking is being used to revitalize cities and areas to bring them to the forefront of their respective regions. As the practice becomes more and more commonplace, it becomes more important to stay with or ahead of the curve.

The reason that placemaking is the main topic of this column is because I wanted to highlight that this is a nationwide conversation that is taking place; economic and community developers, planners, and invested community members are increasingly understanding that the vibrancy of their towns depends on how much they support their creative economy and presence. In other words, I wanted to take this space to emphasize that creativity is not a niche nor a shooting star that Wadena would be pinning its hopes on, but a proven method of enhancing the town.

As I have said many times before, the time is now to take advantage of the many opportunities that are available. Placemaking is a process that many of my projects center on, and every little creative thing that a person does in Wadena to make this town a ‘place’ to be, they are contributing to this practice.
Lillian Norman is a Lead for Minnesota fellow serving the city of Wadena.

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