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LISC and Urban Institute explore the intersection of creative placemaking and safety

We know using arts and culture can physically transform a neighborhood or bring economic opportunity to its residents. A new report from LISC and Urban Institute shows it can also make neighborhoods safer places to live.  

Creative Placemaking and Community Safety, created with support from Artplace America, features case studies from four communities that made intentional efforts to address community and public safety issues using creative placemaking. The report also includes a synthesis of key themes that emerged across the four study sites, along with a discussion of lessons learned and evaluation. The case studies are: 

  • The Beerline Trail Extension and ARTery project in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This project creates new connections between communities with wide socioeconomic differences. Artists and arts and cultural organizations are teaming with law enforcement and community-based organizations along the corridor to reduce crime and activate unused spaces. 
  • Eden Night Live in Alameda County, California. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office sponsors this pop-up marketplace and community festival in a formerly vacant lot. Working with community developers, artists and arts organizations, the Sheriff’s Office is able to engage with the community in a different way. 
  • The Marcus Garvey Youth Clubhouse in Brooklyn, New York. This project created a youth-designed and -programmed community space for young people in the Brownsville neighborhood. In this high-crime community, keeping young people engaged and active with arts and cultural programming not only reduces the actual incidence of crime, but enhances neighbors’ perceptions of safety. 
  • ​The People’s Paper Co-op in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In this program focused on reducing recidivism, artists work with formerly incarcerated individuals to create art and develop the skills to build community and lead reform.  

The report’s authors identified a set of key activities cutting across all projects that engendered community safety outcomes. They were: 

  • activating underused spaces, 
  • temporary placemaking, 
  • creating a sense of play, 
  • turning boundaries into borders, 
  • building skills, 
  • building collective efficacy, 
  • building resilience, and 
  • ​rethinking institutions. 

Each of the four study communities featured an array of these key activities, but carried them out in unique ways that responded to the conditions and assets present in their specific local settings. Read the full report for in-depth discussions of the programs, the key activities and the process by which they led to community safety outcomes. We also encourage you to explore more about LISC’s community safety and creative placemaking practice areas.