Why I picked it up: Civics. It is a topic not well-taught in school, yet seems to be one our country desperately needs. Indeed, in my research museum-goers often lament how our society needs civics to properly function. The idea that museums could step into this gap also comes up, so the theme of this paper caught my eye. That civic learning also leads to equity and opportunity also caught my eye, since those are also impacts that museums often seek to create as well.
What you need to know: The two organizations behind the paper, the National Conference on Citizenship and Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement, are examining if civics can be used to "build an inclusive foundation of engaged citizens," and thus address challenges different population segments are facing. Their recommendations include:
I have to admit that while I think these goals are noble, number two stood out for me as I don't think that people across lines of difference can agree upon history itself. I'm seeing too much coming out of work I have in the field that indicates that is going to be a challenge. If we can't agree on what happened in the past, and why it happened that way, how are we supposed to move forward? I'm not normally so pessimistic, but too much is leaning me that way right now.
I do, however, very much like how they summarized each goal and then looked at it through the lenses of equality, opportunity, and equity. By rigorously doing it for each goal, and then through each lens separately, they make clear how these are three distinct things that are necessary to consider.
Read or skip? This review gives you a sense of some efforts in the areas of civics. That may be enough for you, in which case, skip. But if you are planning initiatives in the realm of civics, civic dialogue, etc., then I recommend looking at the NCOC and PACE websites for more papers coming out of their working sessions. There may be new details that are food for thought or opportunities for museums to step up in a meaningful way.
Full citation: "Recommendations for Exploring Civic Learning as a Pathway to Equity and Opportunity." National Conference on Citizenship and Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement. January 2018
Have a suggestion for my reading list? Email it to me at susie (at) wilkeningconsulting (dot) com.
Why I picked it up: Place interests me. Our connections to place, our interactions with place. I think a lot about how people interact with the communities they live and work in, and how museums do (and do not) contribute to that sense of place. I also am very interested in how we can do more to increase individual capacities to engage and contribute to the betterment of individuals and communities. Based on the title, this paper seems relevant.
What you absolutely need to know: The Kresge's Foundation's Arts and Culture Program "is dedicated to Creative Placemaking with a focus on equitable outcomes." The "observations and reflections" in this paper are rooted in the assumption that creative placemaking, or that the building of a community's cultural assets leads to healthier places for all of us to live (but often focusing on "historically marginalized communities"), is a desirable thing to pursue. This paper takes stock of what has happened thus far, and what is needed for further progress, written by a Kresge senior advisor working deeply in this area.
More details: Kresge entered into Creative Placemaking with three goals: 1 - using grounded theory in their work with low-income or historically marginalized communities; 2 - using empirical approaches to assess impact; and 3 - integrating arts, culture, and design in the realms of practice and policy.
After several years of work in this area, they are reporting success in seeing the concepts of Creative Placemaking becoming more widespread in community development and urban planning, as well as public health. The paper discusses in limited detail three areas of "critical field needs" for meeting the challenges and opportunities of creative placemaking:
There are critics, however, as Creative Placemaking can lead to gentrification, cultural appropriation, etc. Those are entirely valid concerns that this paper notes, but does not satisfactorily address.
Sidebar comment. The paper also notes that when Kresge entered the Creative Placemaking space, they did so without "succumbing to the dichotomous thinking prevalent in some dimensions of the arts field about the intrinsic vs. instrumental value of art and cultural activity." I say "yay" to that, because I have never understood how one precluded the other. Arts and culture have intrinsic value. They also have instrumental value. Celebrate both. After all, we never see astronomers or mathematicians beating themselves up when their intrinsic and/or instrumental values are celebrated. Why do we?
Read or skip? It depends. If you are deep in the work of Creative Placemaking, or planning to request funding from Kresge, you should read it. (You should also note that this is one of a series of white papers released by Kresge, so you may want to review the others as well.) Otherwise, my summary is sufficient.
Full citation: "Creative Placemaking and Expansion of Opportunity: Observations and Reflections." The Kresge Foundation. July 2018