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News & Press: FOCUS

Establishing Our Identity Through the Lens of the Arts

Thursday, November 1, 2018  
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By Deborah E. Mikula, Arts Council of Greater Lansing

For the past four years, the Arts Council of Greater Lansing has been producing the Creative Placemaking Summit with a goal to empower our region, learn from each other, find our common ground and find answers and creative solutions to our region’s challenges. Through the lens of the arts, we know that it is possible to make our place attractive to new and existing businesses, to engage and retain our college graduates and to help diversify and improve our aesthetic landscape. All leading to economic prosperity!

This year, the Creative Placemaking Summit was held in October at the Lansing Center and brought together more than 300 residents, business leaders, university officials, developers, artists, elected officials, urban planners, transportation officials, arts and cultural administrators, downtown merchants and other passionate members of the Capital Region. We gathered to share what is special, authentic and unique in our communities and to begin a process to build a creative brand.

Keynote speaker, Chris Fair from Resonance Consultancy in Vancouver, Canada, shared his “Best City Methodology” of how to measure our performance through place, product, programming, people, prosperity and promotion and where our region placed throughout Michigan and the Midwest. Quite honestly, we fared rather well, but all in attendance agreed that we can do better. In this day and age, where people often select where they will make their home or start their business as much by aesthetics as essential services, we have to make sure that our region has a compelling narrative — a sense of identity — and using arts and culture, is often the best means of achievement.

Throughout the day, our keynote speaker and “Placemaking Personalities” showcased local and national creative placemaking projects and events and brought focus to their successes and challenges. We experienced the passion exuded by creatives from as near as Lansing and Detroit, to as far away as Portland, Oregon and Portland, Maine. Each of the speakers encouraged those present to put time and resources into play to build more creative, lively, livable and dynamic neighborhoods and communities. They reiterated, one after another, that creative placemaking is the driving force of a powerful transformation in communities across the nation.

It was also a day to unveil “Creative517” – the tri-county five-year Cultural Economic Development Plan that has taken a dynamic group of partners over a year to create. The new plan is available at

If you missed the one-day Summit this year, save the date for next year – September 26, 2019 – there will be so much more arts, culture and creativity to share as we make our region a creative place to live, work and visit.

Deborah E. Mikula is the Executive Director of Arts Council of Greater Lansing.

Click here to download the November edition of FOCUS.

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