“Anybody who comes out here on a Sunday knows how this space is used for community. We just take it back with our feet, with our music, with our art.” — Asali DeVan Ecclesiastes, speaking about the Claiborne Corridor, in New Orleans.
The journalism we have produced for the series “For Whom, By Whom” chronicles how creative placemaking can expand opportunities for low-income people living in disinvested communities. These stories give lie to the false narrative that such neighborhoods are home to violence and deprivation instead of talent, imagination and solutions. Here are communities that produce incredible feats despite being terminally under-resourced, and despite systemic neglect that has persisted for generations.
The writers who contributed to this collection report with curiosity and energy on all the ways that placemaking manifests in urban society — in museums, small-business corridors, urban farms, bike trails, affordable housing complexes, and under highway overpasses, among other transformed spaces. As each story unfolds, we hear an urgent, recurring question: Even with deep community engagement, how do you place-make responsibly and equitably for the people who should benefit, in a manner that prevents displacement and gentrification? Neighborhood improvements all too often spark additional development and attract the attention of profit-minded investors. But the hands-on work done in these communities provides a roadmap for how equitable placemaking can be replicated from city to city.
Many supporters made this ebook possible. The entire “For Whom, By Whom” series has been generously underwritten by the Kresge Foundation, and we thank them for their enthusiastic support. Similarly, heartfelt thanks to James A. Anderson, Jared Brey, Audrey F. Henderson, Jen Kinney, Emily Nonko, Katy Reckdahl, Aline Reynolds and Gregory Scruggs for bringing these 10 compelling stories to our attention.
Finally, no thanks are enough for you, our members, who support Next City through your donations. As a nonprofit newsroom, we depend on reader contributions to fund not only our journalism, but our ebooks, special issues, events and webinar programming. When we are able to report on what works in one city, other cities will follow. To tell these stories, we need your support. These stories inspire, and everyone could use some inspiration right now. In a world where your phone pings regularly with crisis alerts, we must continue to amplify this message: Change is possible, and it’s already happening. Pass it on.