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Placemaking in the Great Places

Artistic and cultural activities strengthen a community, particularly when they reveal and celebrate its character and identity. At LISC, we support residents coming together to make social, physical and economic changes in their neighborhoods through the arts and culture. This is the definition of “creative placemaking,” which provides a vital spark that brings a neighborhood to life and transforms it into a place where things happen and people want to be.

LISC has launched a national creative placemaking program because the organization believes that providing space for creativity to flourish in disadvantaged neighborhoods is as important to comprehensive community development as meeting basic needs.

What is Creative Placemaking?

Creative placemaking can mean renovating a historic theater or building affordable live-work space for artists. It can encompass transforming a weedy lot into a lively gathering place or an abandoned church into

a community exhibition space. It can be organizing a dance festival or painting a mural to beautify a building. When the energy of the arts is a driving force, the possibilities are limitless.

Social Impact

Projects like these bring together people of diverse backgrounds. Working with artists can inspire residents to transform a neighborhood in ways that reflect their own sense of beauty, history and identity.

Physical Impact

Creative placemaking transforms the physical environment in ways that make it distinctive, recognizable as home to a unique culture. Renovating, repopulating, sprucing up and embellishing spaces can nurture new connections and other types of revitalization.


Economic Impact

Creative placemaking supports the livelihood of local artists as cultural innovators and entrepreneurs. And it fosters the development of arts-related business clusters. Once enhanced with art and bustling with activity, a neighborhood draws more commerce and foot traffic, which in turn stimulate investment and creates jobs.

Examples of Creative Placemaking in the Great Places

As part of its support for Great Places 2020, LISC has invested in Creative Placemaking activities. Maple Crossing, Englewood Village and River West neighborhoods continue their community engagement and placemaking work within the scope of Great Places 2020. Overall, creative placemaking allowed partners working in community development to look at arts and culture from a new perspective. The planning process and resulting events examined how arts and culture can be integrated into existing plans for each respective neighborhood, and encouraged organizations to think about how to build on existing momentum within these communities. All activities were able to bring people together, beautify the neighborhoods, and develop relationships between residents and stakeholders.

ART EXHIBITION : Englewood Village hosted a pop-up exhibition in an old liquor store called “The Art Shack”. On the same day, a mural project, Notes to Self, was unveiled. Cat Head Press – a shared print shop and artist studio – held their grand opening that day as well. In October, Cat Head Press invited residents their shop to decorate treat bags and carve pumpkins. Learn more here!

FILM FESTIVAL : In June, a group of neighbors developed a film festival for the neighborhood. All films created during the festival were screened in July. Additional workshops offered discussion on techniques for screen writing and cinematography. The final screening was held in a vacant building to show the potential use of their built environment. Learn more here!   Click here to view one of the videos from the film festival. 

ENGLEWOOD PROJECT : The Englewood Project is the Indianapolis-based extension of the global artwork, Love Letter to the World, by Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todonova from Lexington, KY.  260 Indianapolis community members participated in the project opting to get a line of text from the poem tattooed on their bodies or creating a cross-stitch piece from patterns based the unique design created for the Indianapolis/Englewood project.  The Gohde and Todonova project is based on the poem, Love Letta to de Worl by Frank X. Walker, an NAACP Image Award-winner, who wrote it both as an apology and as a renewed commitment to a troubled world.  They wanted to create a global community by intertwining poetry, tattoos, design, photography, spoken work, storytelling and music.

CONCERT SERIES : Englewood Village hosted a series of concerts every third Saturday, from June to August. The concert series primarily featured neighbors as the musical acts. The multi-month concert series helped create brand awareness for other projects in Englewood. Learn more here!

THE POD : Artists and organizers worked together to build a temporary wooden storefront facade, backed with a storage pod, on Maple Crossing’s main corridor. The pod provided space for activities, such as knitting, plein air painting, poetry readings, podcasts, free coffee and flowers. Learn more here!


HIP HOPERETTA : A writing class from IPS School 43 helped tell the story of Maple Crossing through hip-hip and operatic storytelling. Sixth grade students walked down major streets in the neighborhood to build neighborhood pride and inspiration for the lyrics, in partnership with a songwriter-inresidence from the Harrison Center. Take a listen here!


48-HOUR SOUND RESIDENCIES : QR codes were posted around Maple Crossing storefronts as part of a sound scavenger hunt. After completing the hunt, listeners were rewarded with a neighborhood sound composition. Other residencies produced nine original songs celebrating the neighborhood using rap and R&B music. Learn more here!


38TH & SHINE : The 5×5 Art Competition sponsored by Great Places sought project submissions from residents and local artists that would celebrate the neighborhood’s assets. The major creative placemaking activities culminated with the winning entry— an attempt to break the world record for the most simultaneously lit sparklers in one place. Learn more here!  Click here to watch a video of the event. 


MAIN ORGANIZERS : Mapleton-Fall Creek Community Development Corporation, Harrison Center for the Arts

ADDITIONAL PARTNERS : Indy Parks & Recreation, Martin Luther King Community Center, Midtown Indy, Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Neighborhood Associations of Butler-Tarkington, Crown Hill, Mapleton-Fall Creek and Meridian Kessler

ART ALLEY : The Art Alley featured murals in alleyways that aimed to bring visible art into the neighborhood. Artists competed for funds by working with neighborhood schools and a neighborhood church. Neighborhood artists also gathered encouraging phrases that were printed on old-fashioned carnival posters, and designed by neighborhood designers, and distributed them around the neighborhood.


STREET FESTIVAL : Collaborations between neighborhood artists, outside artists, and neighborhood kids led to the development of the West Michigan Street Festival. The festival celebrated the launch and installation of gallery boxes in the River West Art Alley. The festival’s structure aimed to increase the accessibility to the arts, as well as key neighborhood resources, such as food and transportation options available to residents. The festival utilized neighborhood food vendors and the community created bike lanes for the event.

MAIN ORGANIZERS : Big Car Collaborative, IUPUI’s Office of Community Engagement

ADDITIONAL PARTNERS : Indy Convergence, Biergarten, Slovenia National Homes, St. Anthony’s Church

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