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NJIT Launches Hub for Creative Placemaking

NJIT has launched a new initiative dedicated to the growing professional practice of creative placemaking — a field that places arts and culture at the center of community, social and economic development.

The program — the NJIT Hub for Creative Placemaking — will serve as both a professional training center and collaborative platform for NJIT faculty and students to partner with arts organizations and local artists, community planners and citizens, civic leaders, philanthropists and others interested in leveraging the arts to help shape and revitalize physical public spaces, as well as the social and economic well-being of local communities.

NJIT’s New Jersey Innovation Acceleration Center (NJIAC) — a resource for entrepreneurs and innovators throughout the region — has established the university’s new hub with the mission of “aligning the practice with innovation toward equity, inclusive economic growth and opportunity” and “supporting meaning-making in the places people live, work and play.”

“NJIT is taking the lead in advancing the burgeoning field of practice of creative placemaking among the country’s institutions of higher education,” said Suzanne Ishee, director of the NJIT Hub for Creative Placemaking. “Creative placemaking is a cross-sector collaborative approach to community development. In the launching of its unique ‘hub,’ NJIT is seizing the opportunity to weave community-engaged design into technology, transportation, land-use, health, environments and other systems necessary for the creation of more sustainable, equitable and vibrant places.”

“Creative placemaking is an important tool to transform neighborhoods and revitalize communities, and NJIT’s mission and resources make it a natural hub to develop and disseminate this expertise and research,” said Michael Ehrlich, NJIAC co-director and NJIT Hub for Creative Placemaking principal investigator. “I am excited to be part of this effort to support inclusive economic growth and equity in our communities.”

In 2010, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) first recognized creative placemaking as “when partners from public, private, non-profit, and community sectors strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, city, or region around arts and cultural activities.” Since then, the practice has seen widespread and increasing adoption in communities and neighborhoods across the country.

The NEA says that funding from its creative placemaking grants program, Our Town, has reached $45,769,000 through 585 awards issued to communities of all sizes in the U.S. to date.

NJIAC says that the NJIT Hub for Creative Placemaking will advance the field by providing expert analysis and technical assistance in the planning of future placemaking projects both in Newark and the greater Northeast region, as well as training for students and professionals to engage in and lead organizations seeking to revitalize local economies, stabilize neighborhoods, promote businesses and create jobs.

Specifically, the hub will offer several resources: creative placemaking professional workshops and TEDxNJIT events; technical assistance; field research; a public creative placemaking website/repository; and in-person university courses within the academy and toward a professional Certificate in Creative Placemaking, the first such certification offered in U.S. higher education.

The hub will give those engaged in community development the ability to tap both the university’s broad range of entrepreneurial resources through NJIT’s VentureLink, New Jersey’s oldest and largest business incubator, as well as technological and intellectual resources through New Jersey Innovation Institute an NJIT corporation.

“While it is becoming widely known that art and culture can play a key role in community-driven transformation, many local governments and community organizations don’t have the tools and resources to engage with artists and cultural organizations to collaboratively effectuate change,” said Colette Santasieri, executive director, Policy and Planning Innovation for Civil Infrastructure and Environment at NJIT. “The hub’s technical assistance will be tailored to help communities identify their needs, link and leverage their assets, develop partnerships and collaborations, and build capacity, all in an effort to stimulate economic development, address social equity and reinvigorate community engagement.”

Ishee says the hub will also allow creative placemaking planners to harness and integrate diverse faculty expertise spanning the humanities and cultural studies, engineering, sciences, technology, architecture and design, and business management, all found within NJIT — one of only three institutions in New Jersey designated with a “Very High Research Activity (R1)” rating by the Carnegie Classification®.

“Given the unique resources we are bringing to this emerging field, NJIT’s Hub for Creative Placemaking is the only entity of its kind at a university in this country,” said Ishee. “Our program reinforces NJIT’s position as a vital center of research, innovation and equitable revitalization for the city of Newark, the state of New Jersey, the Northeast region and beyond.”

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