Building Worlds Together: The Many Functions and Forms of Arts and Community Development

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Resource Details
Publication Date: 
December 2010
Lyz Crane
Number of Pages: 
Animating Democracy resource
PDF icon LCrane Trend Paper.pdf945.79 KB

In this paper, Lyz Crane draws on the work of practitioners and researchers to characterize the field of arts-based community development in which arts and culture can help achieve place based change related to the physical, social, and economic dimensions of place.  From the premise that the existence of arts is considered a powerful end in itself, Crane then outlines the variety of ways that the actors and activities involved in arts and community development work can relate to and interact with each other to create sustainable communities.  Looking at the cultural ecology of place, creative economy development focuses on fostering local creative businesses and supporting creative workers both in the arts and in supporting industries while cultural development may focus on preserving cultural assets—traditions, language, stories—or on building on them to create stronger, more connected communities.  There is also a complex community development ecosystem of organizations, interests, and tools. Stakeholders may involve arts in their agendas, create arts programming, provide or develop arts spaces, employ artists, and/or partner with arts organizations. Indeed, both the arts and community development are part of the same ecosystem and all of these interactions fall into the category of arts and community development.  Crane places different types of intersections on a passive-active continuum of presence, participation, and application. Prominent nodes of intersection between the arts and community development are identified: animating public spaces; activating public spaces; serving as an anchor or focal point; and serving as a planning engagement tool.  Crane points out that, in terms of outcomes, there may not be much difference between an arts organization with a community-based program and a community organization with an arts-based program.  Oftentimes, the choice of language has to do with their founders or how they are being funded. The difference in effectiveness between these two methods and even a third that is an equal arts organization–community organization partnership is only recently beginning to be explored.

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