While recently reading the book Design and Landscape for People, I was struck by a discussion about the artist's role as a catalyst within wider processes of physical and social development. The authors contend that artists bring a fresh perspective to traditional urban and rural planning issues, often encouraging other practitioners to operate outside their normal space of practice.
I was pleased to learn that this theory is being put to the test right here in Seattle by a collaborative leadership-building project called the Arts Leadership Lab (ALL).
This King County-4culture project is exploring ways in which arts leaders can become more effective partners in community development. The most recent ALL OUT happy hour, held this past Monday at the Grey Gallery and Lounge in Capitol Hill, drew an outgoing crowd of emerging arts leaders interested in a wide variety of community-oriented topics. At different points in the evening I found myself talking about walkable neighborhood initiatives and alternative ways to engage community members in public decision-making processes—effectively changing my perception of the arts practitioner's role in urban planning.
The Arts Leadership Lab is also taking an active role in creation of Cultural Overlay District (COD) in Capitol Hill. They've been working closely with the City and an advisory committee to ensure arts and cultural spaces remain affordable and available for future arts practitioners. It's this type of engagement and partnering that the Arts Leadership Lab is hoping to cultivate among emerging arts leaders. I look forward to the fresh perspective this engagement will bring to our region's community development discussions.
Ashley DeForest is a Community Developer who lives in Seattle, but is involved in urban and regional planning projects throughout the Northwest. Feel free to email her at ashleyd [at] zenbe [dot] com … she's always excited to hear about an innovation in community engagement or urban development!
Photo credit: Sarah Kuck