Using Art to Help Create a Sense of Place

Jamie Bennett, Executive Director of ArtPlace America
Jamie Bennett, Executive Director of ArtPlace America
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Jamie Bennett argues that art has been shaping our sense of place for as long as recorded history.

JAMIE BENNETT: If we look back to ancient Greece, the theater was not only the physical center of a community, it was also the social, political and the religious center.

Bennett is executive director of Art Place America --- a ten-year project, started in 2011 --- that pools the resources of regional and national foundations with the National Endowment for the Arts, to invest in projects that link arts with community development. In town to speak at the City Club of Cleveland, Bennett calls this "creative place-making" and cites projects in Cleveland's St. Clair and Waterloo neighborhoods as places where empty storefronts have been given new life as galleries and shops focusing on the work of artists. He notes that the economic impact of such ventures across the nation has been measured by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis in terms of Gross Domestic Product.

JAMIE BENNETT: And it works out to $504 billion dollars a year, which is 3.2% of GDP. To give some context to that, Travel and Tourism is 2.8 %.

But Bennett says the importance of cultural offerings goes beyond dollars and cents. He cites social research that claims the arts promote civic engagement and social cohesion --- further establishing a community's sense of place.

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