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By Dayna Del Val, Special to The Forum, Published July 21 2013

Why creative placemaking matters in the Red River Valley

FARGO – Based on our geography, climate and population, those of us who live in the southern Red River Valley have access to way more art than we have a right to expect.

This is an excellent situation for two distinct reasons. First, it’s invaluable to have art in our lives, schools and communities. Art enriches us, shows us what’s possible beyond our own selves and moves us to compassion, anger, joy and even sometimes action.

Secondly, art and creativity affords us the opportunity to build a thriving, competitive, economically stable and growing community.

In 2002, Richard Florida wrote the book, “The Rise of the Creative Class.” It was his contention that “Human creativity is the ultimate economic resource. The ability to come up with new ideas and better ways of doing things is ultimately what raises productivity and thus living standards.”

The metro area is awash in creative advancement. From our technological, agricultural and scientific industries, to our universities, colleges, galleries, theaters, artists and more, this community is on a creative placemaking fast track, and that’s a very good thing.

Creative placemaking is the recognition that creative work and thinking forms the foundation of a thriving community, where myriad disciplines are invited to and valued.

Michael Fallon wrote in his article “An Arts Funding Revolution” that “places all across America were increasingly using the arts to help shape their social, physical, and economic characters and that funders … were researching and funding projects that used creative activities to drive civic vibrancy and community attachment.”

This is happening right now in our community.

The Plains Art Museum recently received a $260,000 ArtPlace America grant, one of 54 awards from 1,200 applicants.

The city of Fargo has also been the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Our Town grant for the Fargo Project. Designed to collaborate with a variety of community groups, Rabanus Park will be transformed into a public commons gathering place that honors Fargo’s cultural vibrancy.

Grants like these are direct affirmations of the creative placemaking work being done here to revitalize our community.

But even more needs to be done to foster more of this kind of work and the overall mindset.

The local corporate community must commit to making significant investments in the creative industry. This is not charitable giving in the traditional sense. This investment has a multiplying, reciprocal effect.

Stronger arts institutions and a creative culture ensure that other investors and businesses will look at coming to our communities. It means GPAs will go up and criminal activity will go down. It means students will be more prepared and likely to stay and attend our local universities and colleges. It means more young professionals will stay here and have a positive creative and economic impact on our community. It means smart, experienced workers from around the globe will choose to relocate to our community because of the work and play we can offer.

This is our time. We all know the state and region are growing, money is coming in from all kinds of avenues and we have the potential to become leaders on many fronts. Creative placemaking is a key component to making sure we have a handle on how we grow that potential.

This is the first in a series of columns based on creative placemaking from Dayna Del Val, executive director of The Arts Partnership. For more information about the arts and culture happening in and around our community, go to theartspartnership.net/artspulse.