Archive for Friday, January 30, 2015

Your Turn: Ninth St. concerns deserve attention

January 30, 2015


Over the past couple of months, there has been lots of conversation about the Lawrence Arts Center’s proposed development for East Ninth Street. At city commission, East Lawrence neighborhood meetings, in the Journal-World and on the street, people have been discussing the potential impacts and opportunities of this first-of-its-kind project in Lawrence.

Reflecting on the origins of this project, and studying recent evaluations of the new practice of creative placemaking, may help shed light on many of the concerns and questions that have been raised.

In 2010, Ann Markusen and Anne Gadwa Nicodemus completed “Creative Placemaking,” the National Endowment for the Arts report that introduced this new practice to a wider public. It was this report that launched the creative placemaking funding initiatives Our Town and later ArtPlace, which are at the center of the proposed East Ninth Street project.

But just two years after co-authoring the NEA’s paper, Markusen wrote of her unease about how ArtPlace was measuring creative placemaking success. She writes, “ArtPlace is developing ‘measures of value, which capture changes in rental and ownership values…’ This reads like an invitation to gentrification, and contrary to the NEA’s aspirations for creative placemaking to support social cohesion and community attachment.”

This is not a surprise. Gadwa Nicodemus and Markusen alerted us to the potential of creative placemaking to spur gentrification in their original NEA paper when they wrote, “Arts-initiated revitalization can set off gentrification pressures that displace current residents and small businesses, including non-profit arts organizations.”

And they are not alone in their concern.

In his 2013 essay, “Placemaking and the Politics of Belonging and Dis-Belonging,” Roberto Bedoya, executive director of the Tucson Pima County Arts Council, writes, “The blind love of Creative Placemaking that is tied to the allure of speculation culture and its economic thinking of ‘build it and they will come’ is suffocating and unethical, and supports a politics of dis-belonging employed to manufacture a ‘place.’”

These comments by respected arts leaders are clearly reflected in the dialogue that has emerged around the proposed East Ninth Street project. Although East Lawrence was represented on the Cultural District Task Force, which made general recommendations for the Cultural District, the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association was not consulted in the development of the actual ArtPlace and Our Town grants related to East Ninth Street. Concerns about this perceived lack of agency in the process led ELNA to initiate forums for discussion around the project’s implications, including facilitated public meetings and the three-hour “Imagining East Ninth Street” event.

Comments from many participants at these meetings expressed the need for accountability and the desire for full participation in the overall process. These ideas taken together concern social equity — the idea that fair access to livelihood, education and resources; full participation in the political and cultural life of the community; and self-determination in meeting fundamental needs is a social good intrinsic to healthy and just communities.

In her 2014 article, “The Gentrification of Our Livelihoods: Everything must go,” about an ArtPlace-funded project in San Francisco, writer Megan Wilson speaks directly to this need for equity. She writes, “To achieve these ends, we must work to put far more pressure on our city officials and hold them accountable to provide the best services, opportunities and amenities for residents, while ensuring that existing communities are protected and supported through high functioning planning, permitting and legislation with strong and clear avenues for oversight and accountability by their constituencies.”

This is what many East Lawrence residents have been advocating for: genuine accountability and an acknowledgment of the value that their unique experience and knowledge can bring to the process.

Hiring the city’s first director of arts and culture, Christina McClelland, whose job included facilitating the East Ninth Street process, was a step in the right direction. Her expertise and experience were shown to be integral in creating an informed and equitable process. Unfortunately, that position is now vacant and we’ve been left adrift without a director of arts and culture to navigate the complex and sensitive dynamics of that project.

But perhaps this is a good thing. Maybe it’s exactly what we need: time to pause and reflect on the underlying questions and concerns the proposed East Ninth Street project has raised. Doing so will go a long way to ensuring that those impacted most by the project have a strong voice in its planning and implementation. It will also allow us to be much better prepared when the new director of arts and culture arrives, and the process of the Ninth Street project resumes.

— Dave Loewenstein is an artist and writer based in Lawrence.

— Dave Loewenstein is an artist and writer based in Lawrence.


Lawrence Morgan 3 years, 1 month ago

An excellent article!

Please take a look at the following.

In the first article, "all the process must be open and welcoming to all who want to participate." In the end, the space "should be a space that's flexible enough to make room for many different communities, and encourage connections between them."

I will never forget that when I was a student at KU, I submitted proposals (as did John Lundmark, who passed away some years ago) but they went nowhere. The real person who was to get the projects was a professor at the time. I'll never forget how he looked at me when I turned in our proposals. It was a look of COMPLETE ARROGANCE.

This article also talks about "creativity," which means creativity for certain kinds of people and their income. There isn't much room for creative types who don't fit certain guidelines - "the idea of "creativity" became the purview of a specific type of people. Suddenly everyone was talking about "creative types," and scheming to build more coffee shops and bike trails in order to lure young people with liberal arts degrees to their city to create design blogts and tech start-ups...that a certain kind of person with a certain kind of creativity was most valuable economic development, and cities should try to be more like the places that were already attracting that kind of person in order to steal them away - rather than fostering the creativity of people who were already living in a given place."

A good example of that is Christina McClelland, who came from another state. Apparently - I don't know, because it hasn't been discussed in the Journal-World, why a local person was not selected. And of course, SHE LEFT! And the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association was not consulted formally, I understand, on any part of the planning of the project.

It's ridiculous, and it speaks volumes for the kind of person we have much of in Lawrence - they don't think that local people can make the grade. But that's not true. The whole attitude of Lawrence needs to be changed, widened, made accessible to all. And that includes the Journal-World. It is so limited in its view on things.

The second article affirms "vibrancy": "...the only way to make a city vibrant again is to make room for more of them."

Please continue this article in the following post.

Lawrence Morgan 3 years, 1 month ago

(Continued from the post above)

The third article concerns public spaces and citizenship. "If vibrancy is people, and citizenship is creative, it follows that the more citizens feel they are able to contribute to their public spaces, the more vibrant their communities will be."

In San Francisco, for example, wonderful places for sharing, discussions and even a game of dominos have been created: especially by eliminating some parking spaces, and turning the spaces into mini-parklets. People of all colors share space there, and there are people of all sorts of incomes, too. It's amazing, and this could be done easily in Lawrence. But it has to be in the right spaces, and people have to be outside to take part. "There is an undeniable thing that each resident brings to the has to do with the openness and feeling of the place; it's not something that you construct, physically, it's something that you feel. And it is us as humans that convey that feeling to each other - or not."

I have wondered - how many reporters of different races are employed by the Journal-World. A year ago I asked how many veterans were employed - and I think the answer was one.

The final article includes people of all generations, who can share with each other in public spaces. There is much to be learned from each generation, and the right kind of pubic space can "cause the magic"!

We could start out, in our pubic spaces, with dominos - and go from there. It certainly happens in San Francisco, and it could happen in Lawrence just as easily. But we need to pick people who are from the area, who have a sense of what is possible.

Sally Piller 3 years, 1 month ago

My friend Dave doesn't mention in his piece the Kansas City design team, El Dorado Inc., chosen to head up this project, or their successful track record in the other ArtPlace projects that they've completed in Kansas City and Manhattan, Kansas neighborhoods. I think this is more relevant than his example of San Francisco. Since there is now a Marriott Hotel on the southwest corner of 9th and New Hampshire, it seems pretty clear that the writing is on the wall. Adjacent areas will eventually be redeveloped with or without an arts grant which includes input from the neighbors and involves local artists and pays for badly needed street design, sidewalks and street lights. I hate to see some people's "We don't want anything to change, please leave us alone." attitude cause the city to miss out on a great opportunity.

Kate Rogge 3 years, 1 month ago

So let's build it in your neighborhood then, Ms. Piller. Thank you for stepping up to ensure that at least your Lawrence neighborhood doesn't miss out on a great opportunity for rezoning and higher property taxes. Thank you (all) for taking a palpable hit for the collective good.

Gary Williams 3 years, 1 month ago

I have a question, is there a cost to the people of Lawrence?, if so approx what is that cost. ball park figure will be fine. Just curious Thanks

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