Creative Democracy: Applying the Lessons of Creative Placemaking to Policymaking


  • Kiley Arroyo Cultural Strategy Council


The emerging field of creative placemaking represents a new paradigm of equity-focused community cultural development. While pieces of the infrastructure needed to sustain creative placemaking practices exist, they have yet to coalesce into a cohesive whole. To date, leading actors are investing in horizontal strategies to integrate creative placemaking across organizations, sectors, and systems. However, insights gained from local successes have not been fully translated vertically into the systems-level policy change required to have sustained impact. Inspired by the current state of the field, this paper examines how the rules of civic problem-solving are evolving to prioritize citizenship and leverage local knowledge, one expression of culture, by drawing on longstanding discourse in fields that range from architecture and planning to economics, political science, philosophy, sociology, and community psychology. As political forces reshape the role of localities, creative practitioners from diverse disciplines are uniquely positioned to directly affect the direction of development in new ways that build community power and position cultural considerations at the heart of governance. By adopting a systems view of place-based change and expanding the application of creative practices to participatory policymaking through a transversal approach, a cross-section of stakeholders can advance a more comprehensive model of equitable development. Doing so can help to strengthen creative democracy, which recognizes that critical imagination is the generative basis on which individuals and societies successfully engage with complexity, transform structures that allocate resources, and adapt to changing conditions over time.

Author Biography

Kiley Arroyo, Cultural Strategy Council

Established in 2007, the Cultural Strategies Council (CSC) is a vehicle for transdisciplinary research, collaborative learning, and creative systems change.

The CSC works with partners from arts and culture, government, civil society, academia and philanthropy to advance meaningful change, in cooperation with diverse urban, rural and indigenous communities.

This work is predicated on the belief that society’s capacity to transcend structural inequities, address complex issues, and cultivate a culture of belonging relies on our ability to envisage, assess, and realize alternative futures cooperatively.

Within this frame, social justice is not seen as a static goal to be achieved, but rather, a dynamic condition. Therefore, achieving and maintaining equity requires diverse partners to intentionally recalibrate what they do and how, why, and with whom - in response to ever-changing conditions. This adaptive capacity for relevant change can be significantly enhanced by strategic learning that is context-sensitive and rooted in inclusive and intercultural dialogue.

Arts and cultural strategies can influence those conditions by creating atmospheres in which individuals feel welcome, can encounter difference, engage in intercultural dialogue, share truths, foster mutual understanding, and find common cause.

Enhanced cohesion and increased collective capacity can subsequently fuel transformative change at multiple scales, from everyday relationships to institutional systems and the political structures that allocate resources and opportunities for all citizens to flourish.

Philadelphia Museum of Art. Attribution: <p style="font-size: 0.9rem;font-style: italic;"><a href="">"Philadelphia museum of art"</a><span>by <a href="">Andos_pics</a></span> is licensed under <a href="" style="margin-right: 5px;">CC BY-NC-SA 2.0</a><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" style="display: inline-block;white-space: none;opacity: .7;margin-top: 2px;margin-left: 3px;height: 22px !important;"><img style="height: inherit;margin-right: 3px;display: inline-block;" src="" /><img style="height: inherit;margin-right: 3px;display: inline-block;" src="" /><img style="height: inherit;margin-right: 3px;display: inline-block;" src="" /><img style="height: inherit;margin-right: 3px;display: inline-block;" src="" /></a></p>




How to Cite

Arroyo, K. (2017). Creative Democracy: Applying the Lessons of Creative Placemaking to Policymaking. Artivate: A Journal of Entrepreneurship in the Arts, 6(2), 58–72. Retrieved from