In creative placemaking, partners from public, private, non-profit, and community sectors shape the physical and social character of urban areas around arts and cultural activities. Although the concept is relatively new in Central Europe, the process is already taking place, yet often with little support from municipalities, developers and communities.
Numerous studies show that the arts and culture can be drivers of urban economic and social change. This applies particularly to cities undergoing de-industrialization that leaves many vacant spaces, ideal for cultural and creative industries. Thus it is desirable to promote creative placemaking by involving all relevant groups active in the urban environment, mediating the debate and highlighting positive examples both from the V4 region and outside its borders.
The project Creative Visegrad: City, Culture and Public Space was composed of public debates and the Creative Placemaking Festival, organized in November 2015 by the Aspen Institute Central Europe together with Pilsen 2015, European Capital of Culture (in Prague and Pilsen). During all these debates speakers from V4 countries shared their experience and discussed how to further promote creative placemaking in the region.
How creative industries and placemaking, public space policies, and the economic value of culture are dealt with in the Visegrad countries
The idea of economic growth and local development based on the arts and culture takes a solid root in the Central Europe. Cultural and creative industries are now often perceived as tools that can not only enliven vacant and underutilized infrastructures but also generate jobs and retain inhabitants in, until recently, unattractive localities.
These collateral effects have been acknowledged in many public policies and strategies, on the EU, national and local levels. Before they were officially embraced, creative placemaking processes have been taking place in many, usually large, Central European cities. Nowadays, one can even speak of a ‘creative epidemic’, which brings about countless untraditional hubs for cultural, entrepreneurial and leisure activities.
Recognizing this creative trend, Aspen Institute Central Europe in cooperation with three other Visegrad partners, Creative Industry Forum, Hungarian Contemporary Architecture Centre and Res Publica Foundation, investigated into how (i) creative industries and placemaking, (ii) public space policies, (iii) and the economic value of culture are dealt with in the Visegrad countries. Supported by the Visegrad Fund, the project brings a collection of articles along with six video interviews about the various aspects of placemaking.
An image that emerges from the examination of policies, strategies and projects is to a great extent positive:
- Public institutions begin to comprehend culture and art as means to generate social capital and sustainable growth; on municipal level this translates into the departure from seeing culture only as a tourists-attractor to using it as a booster of quality of life
- The share of cultural and creative industries in Visegrad countries and cities is increasing and oscillates around 2% – 4%, depending on calculation methodology
- There are systematic attempts to map and quantify the cultural and creative industries, which should lead to more targeted polices
- Thanks to the emphasis on interdisciplinarity and collaboration across sectors, paternalistic view local government is challenged. Creative placemaking can empower local communities and helps citizens in post-communist countries reclaim public space
- Despite these positive trends, many of the official documents merely adopt the new language of creativity and do not adjust budgets or action plans accordingly. Also, a mere copy-pasting of ideas that function in one place is not a recipe for success. To prosper, creative placemaking projects need to reflect local environment and history of place.
Policies, places, organizing and evaluating of cultural and creative industries
The six chapters of Creative Visegrad: City, Culture and Public Space offer an overview of policies, places, organizing and evaluating of cultural and creative industries:
- The concept of creative placemaking in Visegrad countries / Maria Staszkiewicz, Milan Zubíček
- Culture of brownfields: Creative revitalization of industrial spaces in Central Europe / Levente Polyák
- Multi-stakeholder platforms for promoting culture / Jaroslava Tomanová
- Patterns of survival: Multi-source financing of cultural and creative industries in Poland / Anna Wójcik
- Mapping cultural and creative industries on local and regional levels / Eva Žáková
- Creative incubators, hubs and quarters / Tereza Chrástová
As creative projects are best defined by examples, six activists were interviewed on their motivation, experience with municipalities and the impact their projects have on the local community:
Bogna Świątkowska (Bęc Zmiana Foundation, Warsaw) discusses the changing relationship towards public space in Central Europe
Jakub Hradilek (Zažit město jinak, Prague) describes how to reclaim the streets and empowers local communities
Levente Polyák (Contemporary Architecture Centre, Budapest) speaks about the facilitation of the public-private cooperation and civic access to space
Jan Mazur (Stará tržnica, Bratislava) recounts the remaking of the Old Market into a new cultural hub in the center of Bratislava
Martin Pošta (Signal Festival, Prague) explains how a festival of light, incomprehensible for the municipal authorities at first, became one the projects officially supported by the City Hall
Štěpán Kubišta (Jatka 78, Prague) presents how a group of new circus artists enlivens a small business market area in Prague
Aspen Institute Central Europe organized the project together with the Creative Industry Forum, Hungarian Contemporary Architecture Centre, and Fundacja Res Publica. The project was supported by the International Visegrad Fund.