CREATE PLACES: THE CREATIVE HEART OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

BY: REBECCA LAPOLE

How do the arts show up in your life? For most of us, it’s in going to shows, events, festivals, art galleries, etc. For those of us who feel driven to create – in writing, painting, acting, sculpting, dancing, making music – how does this work financially?

Create Places is here to help make it work. Formed in 2014, Create Places is an artist-organized economic and workforce development nonprofit providing support, grant, and loans to increase arts-related employment in Northern Colorado. Andrew Schneider is one of the founders of this organization and said, “We’re leveraging the arts for community development, and applying the arts culture and creative lens to placemaking. We’re looking at what areas of town and which communities don’t have access to the arts and connecting them with creative places there.”

On September 18 from 10a-3p the City is planning Open Streets, the community event that invites us all to play in the street – closing it off to cars and opening it to all types of fun activities. This month it will be in the neighborhoods near New Belgium Brewery all the way up past Willox. Create Places will host a neighborhood picnic after that to bring together residents from all different neighborhoods; from the trailer parks to the newer developments and the older, more established areas. Schneider said, “Our piece is the creative and fun part. No one wants to go to a focus group at 7 am and talk about their neighborhood. So we set up fun events to celebrate our cultural diversity, share food, art, music and work with all the different organizations in Fort Collins to help them do a better job in their work in the community by giving it a creative side.”

To give us an idea of how Create Places is involved with Open Streets, Schneider said, “The activities for Open Streets had to meet four criteria: 1. Collaboration, one organization can’t show up alone. 2. Themed to Open Streets, how do we experience the streets other than driving. 3. Interactive, get 7-9000 attendees to come do something! 4. Create a work of art or artifact that lives on after the fact. We’re providing ten creative activities including: circus acrobatics, radio storytelling, fine art photography, mural painting, acting and moving/dance, and we’ll touch upon all these things and how they’re all related to streets and livability in your neighborhood.”

The positioning of Open Streets this month coincides perfectly with what Create Places is focusing on; specifically North College and the neighborhoods surrounding that corridor. Schneider said, “It’s where all our diversity comes from. Open Streets is ground zero for highlighting and positioning that diversity as an asset.” The Lyric Cinema Cafe is moving into this area of Fort Collins and hopes to bring more creatives along with it – see our feature on that by Doug Usher in this issue. Schneider and Create Places are also aware of gentrification, and how the arts can be a precursor to this, and are working to make sure that the building up of the area doesn’t kick those original residents out by making it unaffordable. Schneider mentioned “Desplazado,” a documentary by Shari Due, “the poster child of creating a conversation from art/story telling,” that tells the story of displacement in FoCo. “Our community benefits greatly from artists; are we creating a space that is economically feasible for them?”

More Information: createplaces.org, facebook.com/CreatePlaces/

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