National design and arts-based equitable development and practice for public good at Arizona State

We believe designers and artists are unique and often under-activated assets in communities. As the largest comprehensive design and arts college in the U.S., we also believe we have a critical role in testing and advancing how we prepare emerging designers and artists for the challenges facing our communities, through new ways of working, seeing and acting. We believe our students, our faculty and our research can and should be reimagining how artists and designers can co-create in public systems for social good.

To that end, over the last few years, we have assembled a team of leading minds in the field, including Maria Rosario Jackson and Jason Schupbach, and key artists and designers like Michael Rohd, Liz Lerman, Daniel Bernard Roumain and Wanda Dalla Costa. Together, along with Greg Esser, ASU alumnus and founder of Arizona’s Roosevelt Row arts district, we asked them to apply their knowledge and to help us surface new ways of thinking and working. For example:

  • Maria Rosario Jackson and Arizona State University have partnered with the Kresge Foundation to pilot and research the feasibility of a national Institute for Creativity, Place and Equitable Communities. This includes a partnership with ASU’s Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions and other university units, the initial design of a placemaking fellowship program, a creative measurement lab (an entity that seeks to address research and evaluation challenges in equitable creative placemaking), curriculum development initiatives, and a series of field level convenings to surface field priorities and inform ethical standards of practice. The Institute will operate nationally, regionally and locally.
  • Liz Lerman has worked across the campus integrating arts-based practices in the sciences and testing the development of a national public-facing “Atlas of Creative Tools.”
  • Michael Rohd, through his practical work at the Center for Performance and Civic Practice, has helped us reimagine what civic practice learning may look like across our design and arts schools and beyond.
  • Jason Schupbach has engaged the global design community on a complete re-design of The Design School at ASU incorporating equitable inclusion and community development.
  • Joint efforts with the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Surdna Foundation have helped us support a network of artist/community collaborations that are advancing equitable development through coordinated action.

Through all of this ideation and practicing, ASU has identified key elements that make our work and value proposition distinct:

  • Our ability to directly and deeply affect thousands of student and mid-career learners and translate curriculum to field-facing content
  • Our ability to leverage new research and pedagogy with non-arts field partners in public service, health, science and sustainability and other community systems
  • Our ability, through the assets of the university and our partners, to prototype and scale ideation into action and policy.

The above is driven in part by an unprecedented partnership between the largest design and arts college and one of the largest and most embedded community policy colleges in the country.

What we have lacked in this work was a concrete way to organize and sustain this project-based momentum.

To that end, we hired Jen Cole this summer to help us design and launch the National Accelerator for Cultural Innovation and Inclusion. The Accelerator is an applied practice center at ASU that prototypes and scales pedagogy, practice and policy and that imagines designers and artists as leaders for social transformation and public good.

The Accelerator lifts up the innovative work of students and faculty within ASU and also provides a space for artists, designers, culture bearers, and public and nonprofit sector leaders throughout the U.S. to dynamically test ideas, research and programs that address our driving questions:

  • How can we better train/equip and resource artists and designers to ethically and equitably lead community-based transformation?
  • How can we create community systems that lift up artists and designers as vital co-leaders and partners in social change?

Going forward, the Accelerator will function as a container, organizing our field-facing work and connecting the dots between practice and transformation on and off campus. We are designing and planning for a public launch in 2019.

ASU’s arts-based equitable community development or creative placemaking work is a central thread of inquiry and action within the larger Accelerator. In the next few years, Maria Rosario Jackson and other ASU leaders will continue the evolution of the Institute for Creativity, Place and Equitable Communities within the Accelerator and move forward with key developments such as curriculum, national peer leadership support, tools, teaching excellence and new ways of imagining community-based evaluation.

The infographic below gives a high-level snapshot of how we are proceeding as an institution over the next 18 months to advance the larger ideas around community practice and the specific learning and advancement of the creative placemaking field at ASU.

To follow our progress, please join our Creative Placemaking mailing list.

— written by Steven J. Tepper, dean, ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

This infographic gives a high-level snapshot of creative placemaking work at ASU over the next 18 months.