A Creative Placemaking Initiative at Centennial Place, Sequim
Creative Placemaking is a planning method created for community collaboration. It uses creative strategies to engage local citizens in more comprehensive dialogues about the places in which they live.
The City of Sequim, in collaboration with Arts Coordinator, Aurora Lagattuta, Head of Arts and Parks, Jason Loihle, Head of Public Works, Matt Klontz and the City Arts Advisory Commission (CAAC) will be launching Sequim Understory, a Creative Placemaking Initiative for re-imagining Centennial Place. Sequim Understory will engage the Sequim community in a 2-year Creative Placemaking process that will redesign and beautify Centennial Place so that it can better serve both its existing and its new community programs, needs and desires.
Where is Centennial Place?
Centennial Place is the name for the asphalt lot at the corner of Sequim and Washington. This land was purchased in 2013, the year of the city’s centennial, and so it was named Centennial Place. Due to the high visibility of this corner at center of Sequim’s Downtown, the City desires to include our local citizens in its planning process. That is how the Sequim Understory Creative Placemaking Initiative came to be.
What is Creative Placemaking?
Creative placemaking is a method of community collaboration with place. The National Endowment for the Arts defines creative placemaking as, “the use of creative strategies for equitable community planning and development.” By creatively engaging with communities, creative placemaking expands conversations about place to include local citizens' desires and stories.
This urban planning method has been successfully employed in many other cities around the country using creative strategies to engage with local citizens in a new and more comprehensive dialogue about how to design their parks and public spaces. It began in 2010 when a city planner teamed up with an artist to design a park. The city planner discovered that the artist’s practices and questions engaged the local community in a new and more comprehensive dialogue about how to design their park. And the results left both the planners and the citizens more engaged and satisfied.
How does adding artistic strategies help plan a city park?
What the past decade of Creative Placemaking projects in both small and large cities demonstrates is that artistic tactics expand the conversations about place and answers these questions:
What do you want do in this place?
How do you desire to feel in this place?
What are the stories that this place tells?
These are questions that artists are skilled at asking and answering.
What planners discovered is that when we think of a place we really love, we recall both the things in the place and also how the place felt. We judge a place with both our objective left brain as well as our subjective right brain.
Creative Placemaking provides room for both.
What is the plan?
Sequim Understory Creative Placemaking plan for 2021 will be twofold. It will consist of surveys and art engagement.
Sequim Understory consists of a two-year long survey and voting process with the public to determine the design of Centennial Place. These surveys will ask questions aimed to discover both the objects you’d like, such as a waterslide, a fountain or a permanent tree and also ask: What do you desire to do here? How do you want to feel when you are here? What story do you want this place to tell to both locals and tourists alike?
If possible, (pandemic depending,) we will engage live with the community via pop-up tents at events/farmers' markets and public talks. Surveys, both mailed and online, will be released no later than May, 2021.
The second part involves our Sequim Understory Arts Fellow. Please read more about this artist and their project here.
This combined method will allow the citizens and the committee reviewing the community’s feedback to create 5-10 achievable design options. By the end of 2021, a committee will present design options to the City Council. And in 2022, local citizens will be invited to vote on their top selections for Centennial Place.
Throughout 2020, Centennial Place has been the place for protests: The Black Lives Matter Movement and political protests for both the right and left. As this corner voiced the concerns of Sequim’s citizens, it has also articulated a need to reflect on Sequim. What kind of rural city are we? What are our shared values and concerns? How do we desire to change and grow?
Sequim Understory aims to engage the local community in conversations about the identity of Sequim. Some of the main questions driving this project include: What stories do we tell about Sequim and its history? What do we need in our community now? What legacy do we desire to create for Sequim’s future? These conversations will influence, dictate, and determine the planning of Centennial Place.
The Sequim Understory approach serves as a blueprint for future creative placemaking and city planning initiatives. Our goal is to have a better model for future community-led planning and engagement.
Like the understory of a forest, hidden by the canopy yet full of life, this project will tell our stories and hopes that sustain our Sequim community.