Mississippi represented at Creative Placemaking Summit

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, November 2, 2022

By Wayne Andrews

Creative Placemaking is generally understood as the use of arts and culture by diverse partners to strategically shape the physical and social character of a place to spur economic development, promote enduring social change and improve the physical environment.  Projects that have repurposed an empty building to create a community center in a neighborhood often are highlighted as examples of Creative Placemaking.  These examples do not full encompass the concept. 

Creative Placemaking focuses on what makes a community more livable.  This includes exploring issues of that make prosperous communities by addressing social, economic, health, and inclusiveness issues. Transforming an empty storefront into a community center has elements of creative placemaking, Yet, how to include the space as part of a broader plan to address the issues of the community is the focus of Creative Placemaking.  Living in Lafayette County with our abundance of resources, experiences, arts, and diversity of businesses it might seem we have this issue in hand.

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Almost 20 years ago the City of Oxford thought about transforming the former Powerhouse into an arts center.  Home to the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council the space is more than an arts center or event space.  It provides workshops, training, and tools that provide community members with the resources to launch their own businesses.  This adds to our community as the new businesses are reflective of the people, ideas, and talents that define our community. Having this resource aids in retaining what many love about our community – its slightly eclectic nature.  The community is not changing. What defines the community stays the same. How it is expressed takes new shapes with food trucks, poetry and dance events in local churches, artist paint-outs, and symposiums on books, food, and the front porches. 

This week a contingent of Mississippians will travel to the Southern Creative Placemaking Summit. The Mississippi group includes representatives from the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, Delta Arts Alliance and the Mississippi Presenters network. These summits are organized by the national center for Creative Placemaking and draw those interested in learning how to turn ideas into action.  Less conferences and more workshops the three-day event highlights different communities showing how Chattanooga, TN, Chapel Hill, NC, and Macon, GA applied the ideas to create inclusive economically thriving communities.  

 The Mississippi Arts Commission provided grants for Meghan Gallagher, who organizes the Arts Incubator through the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, and for Wayne Andrews, who serves as Chair of the Mississippi Presenters Network to attend.  Gallagher is attending to explore how other communities created economic opportunities for creatives. Andrews is attending to explore how to collaborate with other Arts leaders across Mississippi to create cultural connectors. 

Wayne Andrews is chairman of the YAC. He writes a weekly column for The Oxford Eagle.