Placemaking: Turning Public Spaces into Living Spaces

One of the goals of Keene First Friday Art Hop is to use the principles of Placemaking to design our once-a-month event.  Learn more about Placemaking and get inspired:

Think of the public spaces you live, work or travel by every day — parks, streets and other publicly owned spaces.  Placemaking turns those public spaces into places that boost our health, happiness and well being.  Using a community-based process, Placemaking builds upon some of our greatest assets, places open to the public.

True Placemakers listen first.  They ask questions and learn how people currently live, work and play in a space and what needs or dreams that have for that space and for their community.  Then, they dive deep into the pool of Placemaking examples, found internationally, and design a space that builds on community assets, serves a diversity of stakeholder needs, builds social networks and forwards multiple initiatives.  Placemaking includes adding a diversity of permanent or temporary elements such as seating, public art, gardens and crosswalks.

The Project for Public Spaces states, “A great public space cannot be measured by its physical attributes alone; it must also serve people as a vital community resource in which function always trumps form. When people of all ages, abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds can not only access and enjoy a place, but also play a key role in its identity, creation, and maintenance, that is when we see genuine Placemaking in action.”

Congress Square Park in Portland, ME offers up an inspiring example of Placemaking.  Neglected for years, the city proposed to sell the park to private developers.  A grassroots group called the Friends of Congress Square Park formed in response and the city reversed its plan.  The group used the Placemaking process to create a welcoming space in the heart of downtown Portland.  They added local art installations, outdoor seating, flower beds and free WiFi.   Over 125 free community events take place each year at the park — from swing dancing to outdoor films.

In the Monadnock region, First Friday initiatives in Keene and Peterborough provide two local examples of Placemaking.

Keene First Friday Art Hop

37063731_655759488091796_4266373894824263680_nOnce a month, Keene First Friday Art Hop will turn our Main Street sidewalks and other public spaces into a celebration of art and culture.  The first Keene First Friday Art Hop event happen on Friday, July 6 and included a diversity of cultural offerings and family activities.

July’s event was centered at Railroad Square Park and the adjoining Amphitheater next to the Monadnock Food Co-op. It extended from the top of the business district — just beyond Central Square — moving throughout downtown businesses and restaurants, eventually winding down Main Street to include concurrent arts and culture presentations at our business district museums, and ending at Keene State College, home of the Redfern Arts Center and the Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery.

Keene First Friday Art Hop started with a feasibility study carried out by Machina Arts in Keene to better understand the arts economy and creative climate in the Monadnock region. Two dozen interviews, as well as community engagement input sessions, provided the basis and scope of this effort. Then, ten local organizations and artists came together to design this program through a collaborative process.

Local organizations and businesses interested in participating in the First Friday Art Hop are encouraged to contact Carolyn Sweet at 603-309-6339 or keenefirstfriday@gmail.com.

First Friday in Peterborough

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The artists and merchants of Peterborough invite you to visit their historic downtown on First Fridays from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. to explore art, boutique shops, music and culture at the First Friday in Downtown Peterborough.  Local merchants and chefs will offer First Friday specials and samples.  Here’s just a teaser of their offerings at a past First Friday event: Monadnock Oil and Vinegar will showcase their new line of New Hampshire Herbs & Spices and Shakti Healing Arts will feature their Chaga Elixir Bar with complimentary drinks loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. For more information, contact Pelagia Vincent, pelagiavincent@earthlink.net.

Explore the Power of Placemaking

We hope that other groups will explore the power of Placemaking in our region — and transform more public spaces into living spaces that bring our community together.

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