Playing for the Public Good: The Arts in Planning and Government
When governmental and civic entities employ the arts to engage people in public processes, they often find new and effective ways to motivate participation, make decisions, and solve problems. In communities of all sizes, coast-to-coast, the arts are enhancing grassroots community planning activities and initiatives in participatory democracy. Artists and their creative practices are enlivening the workings of civic committees, town hall meetings, and action plans, at the same time they are engaging community members in education, advocacy, and policy efforts related to local and regional issues vital to the public well-being. This paper highlights a wide range of arts and culture-based projects or programs that broaden participation and deepen meaning beyond typical planning processes and/or governmental systems and structures. It offers a brief history of and context for the roles of arts and culture in public planning and governmental processes and characterizes the various drivers, intents and outcomes, and orientations in arts infused planning and civic processes in these projects. While investing in the arts has proven effective in producing jobs and capital, economic prosperity is but one benefit of activating the arts in community. Arts and culture also play a crucial role in increasing, diversifying, and sustaining public participation; navigating contentious issues; and fostering productive public dialogue and decision making.