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Community Character: How Arts and Cultural Strategies Create, Reinforce, and Enhance Sense of Place

August 12, 201112 August 2011

Creative (smaller) cities

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This briefing paper, written for generalist planners, highlights how “arts and culture strategies help to reveal and enhance the underlying identity – the unique meaning, value, and character” – of a community.

The paper outlines four ways in which planners and community members can work together to develop the narrative of a community. First, the community context must be well understood in its historic, cultural, economic and social elements. The report suggests a number of items that might be included in a community cultural resources inventory.

Second, the community’s character should be celebrated and developed, via “a vision for the future that continuously evolves and embraces new ideas while balancing the inherent conflicting nature of past, present, and future community values and culture”.

Third, local strategies and implementation frameworks should be developed, which could include “artistic and cultural inventories, community visioning processes, arts and culture programming, master plans, and public financial investment in urban design and placemaking”. Among other local examples, the paper highlights Calgary’s investment in public art in the city’s water and sewer infrastructure.

Finally, artistic and cultural programming should be supported. “Arts and cultural programming provides education about the historical and cultural context of a community and opportunities for participation in community life through festivals, events and performances, interactive classes and workshops, and a variety of other activities.”

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