Art as a means of urban revitalization? An examination of creative placemaking, artist perspective, gentrification, and neighborhood change in Wichita, Kansas

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Nance, Kate
Pearson, Jennifer D.

Whether situated on public or privately-owned property, murals, art installments, and art-centered events often serve as a source of cultural development in their communities. The arts have been found to play a vital role in fostering local pride and imagery, attracting tourism, economic development, and often become key contributions to city beautification and revitalization efforts. Some projects or events may be grant, nonprofit, or government funded, while others may be privately funded by local businesses, individuals, or organizations. Many of these beautification or revitalization efforts are referred to as “creative placemaking”, a way of using art and creativity to attach meaning and significance to place. Placemaking is considered to have numerous positive social and economic impacts on neighborhoods and communities but has also been noted to potentially contribute to gentrification and displacement, and without precise intentionality, may erase or muffle cultural histories and voices of a neighborhood or its long-term residents. While a considerable amount of research has been conducted on creative placemaking, gentrification, and displacement in larger cities, there is a still a significant gap in knowledge about the process and impact of placemaking in smaller, mid-sized, Midwest cities. This study sought to rectify this gap by conducting a series of in-depth interviews examining artists’ engagement in public art in their communities, their perspectives on gentrification and neighborhood change in relation to public art enterprises, and how artist’s values may play a role in the level of intentionality in regard to what they will and will not contribute when it comes to public art initiatives.

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Thesis (M.A.)-- Wichita State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of Sociology