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A Few Words from DebbieFrom the Desk of the Executive Director

As the holidays approach, I am always a little bit more thoughtful (and sentimental too) of the perceptions I have of place. Why do some places exude a spirit of community more so than other places? Why do some places become focal points of creativity and others do not? Why do I feel a sense of belonging in some places over another?

 And in my reflection, I have discovered over time that I am drawn to places that are unique and creative, to places that exude a sense of community, to places that are lively and inviting, to places that are diverse and inclusive, to places that promote people’s happiness and well-being. And I have come to realize that it is not about the physical space. It is about how I feel when I am part of the collective--a contributor, a collaborator with others in that space--that makes the place so much more inviting. It is the human interactions that make all the difference. This is what is now being defined as placemaking. 

So what is placemaking?  As defined by Project for Public Spaces, a national organization that is leading this discussion - placemaking is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces.  It capitalizes on a community's assets, inspiration, and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that promote people's health, happiness, and well-being.  It is a concept and process that belongs to anyone who is sincere about creating great places by drawing on the collective wisdom, energy and action of those who live, work and play there. When people enjoy a place for its special social and physical attributes, and when they are allowed to influence decision-making about that space, then you see genuine placemaking in action. 

I am proud to note that the Arts Council has just adopted our new three year strategic plan and as you can probably guess, we will be focusing much of our attention on collaborating with our community leaders to create vibrant and thriving places.  It is our intent to become the ambassadors for creative placemaking in the capital region and put our time, talent and resources into play.  If we are successful in achieving our goals, placemaking will spur economic opportunity; will attract businesses and families to relocate; will provide multiple points of entry and decision making for people of all incomes; will capitalize on our distinctiveness for long-term appeal; will foster connections across cultures; will create a safer and more welcoming environment; will increase pedestrian traffic; will animate our streets, parks and neighborhoods; will make spontaneous interaction more likely; will create more customers for our small businesses…just to name a few.  We are planning a community-wide Placemaking Summit for October 2015 and hope that you will become a part of the movement with us.  

Through the work that I have done in the arts for the past 35 years, I have had the pleasure to experience some of Michigan’s most creative projects and creative places. And I say without hesitation and with a great sense of pride that the capital region, with its plethora of festivals, cultural districts, greenspaces, neighborhoods and unique downtowns, is a place that draws me in and makes me believe in the spirit of community and that our creative entrepreneurs (artists, performers, storytellers, designers, dancers, musicians, etc.) are at the center of it all.   

Wishing you all Happy Holidays,

    Deborah E. Mikula

Executive Director