Crossing the Street: Building DC’s Inclusive Future through Creative Placemaking

After conducting a thorough competition, The District of Columbia Office of Planning (OP) chose a diverse set of curators to develop and deliver arts-related projects in all eight wards of the city. LISC DC, in partnership with buildingcommunityWORKSHOP (bc), was selected for two projects!

The OP’s Crossing the Street: Building DC’s Inclusive Future through Creative Placemaking initiative will foster civic interaction and engage residents in a conversation about the future of their city. The goal is to promote community building in neighborhoods that are experiencing swift demographic and social change.

Creative placemaking is the intentional support of arts and culture-related organizations and activities that bring residents together to make social, physical, and economic changes in their neighborhoods.

Through LISC’s creative placemaking work, different LISC sites across the country support arts-related economic development, which often leads to the creation of jobs, reduced blight, more patrons and visitors, and helps build a strong sense of community among residents.

The District of Columbia was among the first LISC sites in the country to provide low-interest financing and technical assistance to nonprofits looking to operate arts-based community facilities in overlooked and disinvested DC neighborhoods.

This included investments in places like the Atlas Theater (beginning in 2001 when little investment was occurring on H Street NE); The Dance Institute and Gala Theater (beginning in 2002, shortly after the Columbia Heights Metro Stop opened); and Dance Place (a renovation that transformed Dance Place into a vibrant, interactive public space in Brookland).

For our Crossing the Street projects, LISC DC and bc will work in the Ivy City neighborhood, as well as a number of neighborhoods in Ward 8. We will work with our existing nonprofit partners on the ground, such as Habitat for Humanity, Manna, and Mi Casa, to generate resident-driven artistic interventions at the neighborhood level.

Underlying LISC DC and bc’s work in the creative placemaking space exists several overarching and fundamental principles that guide our approach:

  • supporting artists as leaders in the transformation of communities;
  • promoting racial equity, so that people of color and people from other historically marginalized groups are at the center of transforming their lives and their communities;
  • fostering equitable development by taking action to increase development without displacing residents;
  • ensuring that community development work is community-driven, comprehensive, and collaborative; and
  • helping residents influence the future of their communities by building their capacity to withstand the finite nature of a grant period.

Crossing the Street creative placemaking activites will roll out this summer and fall. As you travel through Ivy City and Ward 8, be on the lookout for creative arts projects reflecting our city’s diversity, creativity, and hopes for the future.