Creative Placemaking

City Leaders Plot New Urban Placemaking Effort

From Urban Milwaukee
Published September 9, 2014

Back in March, I wrote that the Greater Milwaukee Committee had been awarded an Art Place America grant for “Urban Placemaking” with support of the Kresge Foundation.Following the grant, an evening urban market was held on W. Wisconsin Ave., and the Artery, a “Creational Trail” along old railroad tracks bridging in Harambee, is being developed.

The Kresge folks liked what they saw, and invited the GMC to apply for further funding to continue to develop the Artery, GMC president Julia Taylor said. The GMC will also form a Placemaking Committee to guide its efforts.

The city will add a 2.1 mile extension of the trail in 2015, and big plans are in store for Walker’s Point, Taylor said during a panel at the group’s monthly membership luncheon at the University Club Monday. Her remarks are further evidence that the relatively new concept of urban placemaking is here to stay, and is bringing change to “disinvested neighborhoods” nationwide.

In fact, the “Milwaukee Method” is being adopted in other cities as a model for placemaking, Taylor said.


Read the full article here.

Creative Placemaking Forum

Creative Placemaking ForumWednesday, April 16, 2014
Turner Hall
Program: 2:45-6:00 p.m.
Networking: 6:00-7:00 p.m.
Register and get more info here

Please join us for a forum on creative placemaking featuring local and national case studies hosted by the Greater Milwaukee Committee, in partnership with Creative Alliance Milwaukee and the Mandel Group, Inc.

Featured speakers include:

  • Omar Blaik, U3 Advisors
  • Adam Carr
  • Alice Carle, Kresge Foundation
  • Lyz Crane, ArtPlace America
  • Kimberly Driggins, District of Columbia Office of Planning
  • Michael Fleming, Upper St. Clair Development Corporation
  • Ellen Gilligan, Greater Milwaukee Foundation
  • Marilyn Higgins, SALT District Syracuse NY
  • Neil Hoffman, MIAD
  • Darryl Johnson, Riverworks
  • Dasha Kelly, Still Water Collective
  • Barry Mandel, Mandel Group
  • Polly Morris, Milwaukee Arts Board
  • Michael Murphy, Milwaukee Common Council
  • Donna Neuwirth, Wormfarm Institute

To learn more about the principles of creative placemaking, please click here for a video put together by the Kresge Foundation.

Community Partners

  • Arts Wisconsin
  • City of Milwaukee – Mayor’s Office
  • Creative Alliance Milwaukee
  • Greater Milwaukee Committee
  • INOVA (Institute of Visual Arts) – UWM
  • LISC
  • Mandel Group, Inc.
  • Milwaukee Artist Resource Network
  • UEDA
  • Urban Ecology Center
  • WAM-DC

West Wisconsin Ave.: Call for Placemakers

‘Creational Trails

Project Update: West Wisconsin Ave.

In the past month, we have been working extensively on building a vision for placemaking in Milwaukee, as well as coordinating with over 25 organizations involved in the first steps of our project. The public call for two to four ideas to activate the space along Wisconsin Ave. through placemaking has launched; this process is called Tournavation.

Tournavation is a crowd-sourced pitch platform to garner community buy-in, spark creative ideas and host a culminating community event with ten finalists. Two to four ideas will be selected in a “shark tank” social event to encourage dialogue, debate and a collusion of people that want to better the city of Milwaukee through art placemaking.

Three Recent Wins:

1)      The successful building and launch of the Creational Trails website
2)      The buy-in from a major university and civic task force for the West Wisconsin Ave. Tents project that involves pioneering public space and allocating a possible white-box grant for a startup DIY Bike Café
3)      The selection and confirmation of five distinguished jurors for the Tournavation process


New Insights:

The notion of “social” is often overlooked in conversations about urban planning, development, and art. With the rise of social media connecting people online, most millennials are actually using it to organize offline. By focusing on the social component of placemaking events and programming, it opens the door for more collisions and opportunity to build deeper collaboration.

The focus on social: furniture, events, opportunities, transit and art is a large focus for the Wisconsin Ave. ‘Creational Trails initiative. By creating an art program that is highly social, it leads to more conversations about the marketing of art, funding of art and a deeper drive for self-art education. It also takes the pretentiousness out of art and allows a pathway to deeper understanding of its value to the community and to the public.

How can temporary activities have a permanent effect on place?

Temporary activities lead to ownership of an area of town and can create tradition. Once you are able to create an experience, it creates a memory. Once you create a memory, you create a story. In the hands of a social organizer and/or a storyteller, you create a word of mouth message that triggers organic movements and growth.

Activation of space through the arts is an important investment and value of a space. When creating a space fueled by the arts, buy-in happens. A key learning is not to rely on just one medium of art. By recognizing all arts as important to the growth of a space, you can spur performances, culinary food carts, live music and film, which put a stamp on a space as a place that values community. If the community values a space, development follows. Where development goes, often, larger development happens. The key is to foster multiple uses of the space, having a flexible vision that nurtures the arts and, in turn, develops the community.


‘Creational Trails: September Update

The core concept for ‘Creational Trails has evolved into a framework for integrating creativity to connect people to spaces.  In the past month, we’ve untangled the connection of ‘art’ and its ‘place’ in ‘making.’  We are refining a process to define art to include the role of culture and social experience in shaping spaces, ultimately connecting people, which in turn yields place.   This process focuses the intangible art of community. 

After hosting a series of neighborhood events over the summer and interfacing with the Mayor and various municipal entities in Milwaukee, strong partnerships are in place for the short-term activation of these spaces and the long-term creative economic vitality as a result of this people-centric process.  Installations in the practice of the ‘place-making’ theory have increased curiosity and generated significant enthusiasm for identity of place.   

Beintween and Art Milwaukee, in cooperation with the Greater Milwaukee Committee and cultural geographer Sara Daleiden, have set forth requests for proposals and curated a panel of advisors/jurors that reflect the two distinct spaces and how to strategically incorporate not only painters and sculptors, but designers and farmers, fabricators and community engagers, writers and performers.  These calls will be released in October. 

Fortunately, Milwaukee is a town full of makers; we have realized that our goal for ‘Creational Trails is to collect a series of cultural makers who can creatively connect within these collaborative spaces.   As such, an inclusive array of artists and artisans will be invited to submit proposals to both open calls as well as commissioned community pieces of ‘art’ working to set the stage for the social production of place. 

3 major wins:

  • Development of an overarching website for tracking indicators called ‘Creational Trails, which will provide insight for the transformation of space to place, creating a navigational recipe for the cultural production in the City of Milwaukee for neighborhood enhancement, engagement, and empowerment.
  • City of Milwaukee deploys $784K towards acquisition of 8 acres of the privately owned rail corridor and 2/3 mile extension of the Beerline recreational trail for 2/3 mile at the artery in Summer 2014.
  •  The creation of an open-sourced community building approach to the standard RFP process called Tounavation. Tournavation is a  tournament for innovated ideas that takes an crowd sourcing approach to the public and allows the top 10 finalists to pitch live on stage in City Hall. Tournavation can become a brand standard for open sourced community involvement. By using a branding approach to the RFP process it allows for more interest, attention and participation. Tournavation will allow the community to gather around and participate in a social event to discuss ideas, art, place-making and watch the 10 finalists present their vision. Finalists will be selected by a juried panel and guests will be invited to text their choice which will be revealed at the event.


Communal installation of bicycle inner tubes woven into chainlink fence at the artery, reflecting the imaginative eyes of a neighborhood kid.

Prowess of process: Nothing is as critical to the generation of place-making as process; hands-on site activities spawn collaboration formulaic to the bonding of people and space.  That said, there is a prowess to engaging a community.  We have discovered how eager youth are towards the act of making, and the fundamental experience that comes from working with people from not only different backgrounds and skill sets, but the inter-generational dynamic integral to a neighborhood and its identity.

‘Creational Trails: The Right Time for West Wisconsin Avenue

‘Creational Trails is a network of improv(is)ed spaces, projecting identity through light and sound to activate spaces as a means of breaking down barriers in Milwaukee. The trails will activate two linear pathways to connect neighborhoods that are divided by physical, racial and economic barriers by installing interactive light and sound art pieces in residual spaces, turning them into safe, walkable and bikeable destinations. ‘Creational Trails also seeks to provide amenities such as bike lanes, cafe seating, edible landscaping, pop-up businesses and lighting.


The Right Time for West Wisconsin Avenue

West Wisconsin Avenue: The Wisconsin Convention Center

West Wisconsin Avenue: The Wisconsin Convention Center

 West Wisconsin Ave: The Grand Avenue Mall

West Wisconsin Ave: The Grand Avenue Mall

Just over two years ago, Mayor Tom Barrett assembled a task force to galvanize the revitalization of West Wisconsin Avenue. Over the decades, the major thoroughfare of downtown Milwaukee has fallen into disrepair with respect to its original purpose as a primary retail district for the city.

Strategy Session: Large group brainstorming in action!

Strategy Session: Large group brainstorming in action!

Strategy session

Supported by the ArtPlace grant, members of this task force, along with other key stakeholders from the area, met for a two-day strategic planning session in June. The group left with several long- and short-term plans for the redevelopment of West Wisconsin Avenue. Most importantly and surprisingly, the task force realized that the gaps in development that exist on the street are simply pockets of potential for what the future of this city holds.

The ArtPlace grant and the initiation of the ‘Creational Trails Project was well-timed with respect to several of the takeaways from the two-day session, including the need to reactivate the space through artist involvement, increase in vibrancy and accessibility to the community. With a newly activated group of core constituents from the avenue, the launch of the public art request for proposals and plans for the community events in the coming year were enthusiastically accepted and encouraged by the larger group. We hope to capitalize on this support as we formalize our plans for the Avenue.


As the planning process continues for ‘Creational Trails, the neighborhood is ready and waiting for the use of a creative placemaking approach to reignite the long-troubled and beloved West Wisconsin Avenue.


Page 5 of 6« First...23456