Thursday, January 14, 2010

Calling All Creatives: From Vacant Lots to Vineyards

(Image Re-Imagining Cleveland)

What is the role of creativity? We all know the function that creativity plays in art and innovation, but what is the purpose of using creativity to build and enhance our communities? I’d like to look at using creativity as an agent of change and encourage you to think more creatively about your community.

I first encountered the idea of creativity for change while an undergraduate studying art history. This is where I first learned about art movements, primarily in the late 20th Century, using creativity for social change. Years later while working in museums in Washington, DC, I encountered another way that the arts affect change through my personal interactions with inner city school children. For them art was a way to escape, but not change their social situation.

Now, I’d like to explore how the ideas behind the art (aka creativity) can generate community. But I am not talking about Richard Florida’s concept of the Creative Class, which while a wonderful theory only takes into account the people that use creativity for their profession. What I’d like to see more of is everyone, not just professional creatives, using their ideas to improve the quality of their cities and neighborhoods.

To begin this quest, I looked no further than my own (figurative) backyard – the city of Cleveland. Late last year, the results of an exciting new program were announced, and it could just be the idea that transforms a depressed Rust Belt city into a sustainability success story. Fast Company even selected Cleveland as one their 13 Most Creative Cities in the World last year based on this program.

The Re-Imagining Cleveland Grant Program gives residents the power to redesign their own city. The program sought out submissions from local residents on how to reuse the plethora of vacant lots in Cleveland. Instead of relying on a development corporation, the program encourages residents to come up with their own sustainable ideas.

And did they ever come up with ideas. Out of 103 proposals 58 proposals were chosen with ideas ranging from a vineyard, market garden and even a garden tended by a group of African refugees struggling to get by on food stamps. The creativity and innovation on the part of the citizens was simply remarkable.

Later in the year, I plan to report about the successful implementation of these ideas. But in the meantime, do you know of everyday citizens who are transforming their communities through creativity or using creative thinking to solve problems like they did in Cleveland? I’d like to feature them in a later post.

Please leave me a comment and let know who they are.


No comments: