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On-Site Staff / Partnerships and Building Relationships / Program Design, Development, and Quality / Staff Leadership and Management / Sustainability

Engaging Young People in Creative Placemaking: Part Two

Welcome back to this two-part blog series as we unpack what creative placemaking looks like in community development and how we can use it as a tool to empower youth in being key players in their local public spaces. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to take a few minutes to read Engaging Young People in Creative Placemaking: Part One, published February 20, 2018 right here on the BOOST Cafe Breakfast Club Blog. 

Using Creative Placemaking in Youth Program: Examples

It may feel daunting to some to use the arts as the main driver for youth and community development, but the good news is that there are many great resources available to use as a starting point:

Use the examples below to spark your imagination for a creative placemaking project in your own community! Remember, each community is different and the goal is to build upon the assets and rich cultural heritage of that place. Therefore, no two projects can truly be the same, but rather reflect the uniqueness of your place. This is a bottom-up, community-driven process so it’s important for youth programs to invite local artists into the process.

  1. Y-PLAN: The Center for Cities and Schools at the University of Berkeley has designed the Y-PLAN (Youth Plan Learn Act Now!) program that encourages youth to engage with real-world problems in their communities through project-based civic learning experiences. Their Y-PLAN Mini Plan can be downloaded for free and can kick-start your project in a matter of 3-5 hours. The Malcolm X Academy (MXA) in San Francisco wrote an article debriefing their experience with this program and how their students interacted and influenced their local community.
  2. Youth Employment:
    1. The Artists for Humanity (AFH): This organization has a well-established initiative that bridges economic, racial, and social divisions by providing under-resourced urban youth with the keys to self-sufficiency through paid employment in art and design. Their mission is built on two philosophies: Engagement in the creative process is a powerful force for social change, and creative entrepreneurship is a productive and life-changing opportunity for young people and their communities. AFH employs 250+ Boston teens annually in a paid apprenticeship in the visual arts and creative industries, and immerse an additional 500+ children and youth in arts exploration experiences through Visual Arts Residencies and other partnerships at Boston public schools.
    2. City Arts: This nonprofit arts organization based in Washington, D.C. engages residents in the development of artworks that reflect neighborhood history and culture, provides paid apprenticeships to talented youth artists, and offers arts education to a range of age groups. At the beginning of an artworks project, student apprentices connect with neighborhood leaders, civic groups, and residents to generate ideas for images to include in the artwork. This input makes it more likely that the artwork will pay tribute to the neighborhood’s history, present, and future.

3. A Child’s Sense of Place: There are several examples of youth engagement projects in Tucson Pima Arts Council’s report, “Land, Land, Art, and Engagement: Taking Stock of the Place Initiative,” and one was a collaborative project between Ironwood Tree Experience (ITE) and Coronado Heights, a midtown urban neighborhood. The project sought to increase children’s physical activity through artmaking in and with nature. Rather than taking children “out to the desert,” as ITE’s projects often do, the project used neighborhood tours and nature-based artwork to inspire wonder in “everyday nature” within urban places that may be perceived as sterile or uninspiring. Project director Suzanne Dhruv said the project drew an unexpected number of children “out of their home to be actively engaged in our workshops…with even the smallest of them lending a hand.” When the project ended, many youth expressed interest in future projects, Dhruv said, and for that reason, Ironwood Tree Experience and other organizations have continued to serve the neighborhood.

4. Metropolis: John Martoni, third-grade teacher, and planner, designed this free curriculum to help students identify the many forms and layers of their city, understand what urban planners do, and give them an opportunity to use a creative design process to express their heritage, interests, and ideas.

5. Asset-Based Community Mapping: The American Planning Association has created a comprehensive Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt that can be adapted for any community! This could be a semester-long project because of the many different places it takes youth in a community.

Additional Tools, Resources, and Articles

Place profoundly impacts life opportunities and therefore authentic participation by young people is an essential ingredient to community change and revitalization. Using a community’s local art and cultural assets, young people can influence civic spaces, healthy eating, transportation, and green spaces (to name just a few!) that ultimately leads to a more just and equitable community. Have fun being creative with your youth in your community!

Join me on Thursday, May 3 at the BOOST Conference for a session on creative placemaking!

For breakfast, I had had a bowl of cereal and an iced coffee.

Image Source:, Oregon Metro News

Author: @kristinstayer

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