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Rural Organizations Gather in Thomas, WV to Learn Placemaking Strategies

Nineteen rural-focused housing and community development-focused practitioners including AmeriCorps volunteers, rural housing developers, West Virginia University faculty, and regional grant makers were among those trekking to Thomas and Davis, West Virginia on October 3 and 4 for a “Creative Placemaking” Peer Exchange sponsored by HAC and bcWORKSHOP. Creative placemaking leverages locally-rooted arts to build community and local economies.

HAC's Stephen Sugg discusses Creative Placemaking with peer exchange attendeesHAC’s Stephen Sugg (right) discussed the pros and cons of infill housing in rural communities with participants.

Woodlands Development Corporation—a long-time HAC partner and a national leader in linking arts and stronger rural communities—hosted the exchange. Local artists/businesspersons, elected officials, and civic leaders were among those sharing their experiences. The communities of Thomas and Davis, West Virginia have become nationally known for a strong arts scene anchored by local galleries and The Purple Fiddle, a a music venue known for showcasing homegrown talent along with high-profile artists. Woodlands helps to ensure that all income levels are part of the communities’ recent growth and uptick in housing prices.

Participants tour a thriving business during a Creative Placemaking peer exchangeLocal artists shared their story of how financing and business coaching from Woodlands Community Builders helped to create a vibrant visual and performance art scene that anchors Thomas’ economy.

The peer exchange was the culmination of a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant that supported HAC and bcWORKSHOP taking on two local pilot Creative Placemaking programs while disseminating lessons learned to HAC’s national network. The buildingcommunityWORKSHOP is a Texas based nonprofit community design center seeking to improve the livability and viability of communities through the practice of thoughtful design and making.

WHAT is CREATIVE PLACEMAKING:

The National Endowment for the Arts calls Creative Placemaking is an evolving field of practice that intentionally leverages the power of the arts, culture and creativity to serve a community’s interest while driving a broader agenda for change, growth and transformation in a way that also builds character and quality of place.