It's About Time: Creative Placemaking and Performance Analytics

Journal Article (Essay)

The U.S. philanthropic discourse known as “creative placemaking” unites a historically unprecedented number of institutional investors in the instrumentalization of art toward civic, social, economic, and environmental goals. Since coining the term in 2011, the National Endowment for the Arts has supported 256 arts interventions in all fifty states with funds totaling more than $21 million. Not without its critics, “place-based” grant programs hail artists to collaborate on municipally driven, often six-figure budget initiatives that use culture as a backdrop for “comprehensive community cultural development.” Compared to the characteristic shortsightedness of institutional approaches to arts philanthropy in the U.S., many “placemaking” residencies offer significantly expanded periods of cultural engagement between artists, community members, and institutional liaisons. While the discursive emphasis on “place” by institutional investors has incited much debate among policy makers and practitioners, less attention has been paid to the instrumentality of time and embodied interaction within these elongated arts residencies. These exceptional circumstances signal a crucial point of intervention for performance scholarship. In this essay, I study cooperative time spent over the course of one NEA-funded residency to shift foundational understandings about how artists and project participants challenge the mechanisms of capitalism through practical and direct cooperation with institutional agents. Drawing upon project documentation and interview testimony from a team of lead artists, administrators, and community participants, I highlight three temporal strategies through which the Project Willowbrook team failed to faithfully reproduce institutional norms guarding “creativity” and “place”. By stalling time (reframing the neighborhood's present-day cultural textures and rhythms), spending time (cultivating conversations with residents about Willowbrook's vexed history of foiled planning), and sub-contracting time (rewriting county art contracts twelve times to account for changes), the team's iterative approach suggests the anti-choreographic possibility that collectively embodied solutions to institutional problems cannot be planned in advance.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Wilbur, S

Cited Editors

  • Vourloumis, H; Argyropoulou, G

Published Date

  • 2015

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 20 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 96 - 103

Published By


  • 7

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1352-8165

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1080/13528165.2015.1071046


  • English

Conference Location

  • United Kingdom