A Report Delves into How Cultural Interventions Advance Sustainability in Communities

"What does culture have to do with sustainability?" A report by Helicon Collaborative, commissioned by ArtPlace, begins with this question to make the case for how place-based arts and cultural interventions, or “creative placemaking,” advance sustainability outcomes in the context of community development.

Farther, Faster, Together: How arts and culture can accelerate environmental progress offers a look into nine creative placemaking projects that were aligned with the environmental sector’s priorities and are showing signs of success. The report's authors explain these case studies demonstrate approaches and practices that communities facing similar issues can harness.

As the environmental sector is beginning to explore cultural strategies for its work, the report illustrates a frame for aligned practice:

How we interact with our environment and the way we build our communities is rooted in and shaped by our culture—our habits of consumption, our ideas about nature, how our communities function, what we value as meaningful, what we think is possible or impossible. Many environmental leaders argue that to create a more sustainable world, we have to address the culture that perpetuates our environmentally harmful ways of living.

With regard to environmentally-oriented creative placemaking, this collaborative report also sheds light on how creative practitioners have worked with communities that are facing social and economic challenges or have experienced trauma and disinvestment. "This makes it especially critical to ensure that cultural interventions 'do no harm,' even unintentionally. (...) Successful creative placemaking efforts are those that do not further disadvantage or harm people living in rural places, people of lower or moderate incomes, and people of color, who have historically had the least access to resources and power."

The researchers' literature review and interviews with environmental leaders lead them to provide strategies in which arts and culture can accelerate environmental progress helping to "build community cohesion, identity, power, and leadership” by [1] “creating inclusive processes for dialogue and co-creation," and [2] "helping people find common ground across political, geographical, and ideological boundaries."

After all, as journalist and author Naomi Klein is quoted in the report, "if there has ever been a moment to advance a plan to heal the planet that also heals our broken economies and our shattered communities, this is it."

Read the report here.

Image: Pixabay/ gregroose