Last weekend marked the Spring Equinox, which means sunny skies and warmer days are around the corner. This is a particularly welcome relief in a place like Minnesota where winters are too long and bitterly cold! As the ground thaws, the crocuses emerge, and your spring to do list grows, I encourage you to start thinking about how you can engage in creative placemaking this spring. Creative placemaking takes many forms, including:
Planting and working a garden
Placing some chairs in your front yard
Building a Little Free Library
Drawing some sidewalk art
Hosting a neighbor barbecue or a block party
In short, find simple ways to creatively use and care for public space. Use these activities as a way to get to know your neighbors and invite them to use and cultivate good public space, too. The design and activation of our shared spaces and places has a profound impact on how we build relationships as neighbors and flourish as human beings. The more we inhabit the public realm, the more opportunities we have for knowing our neighbors, which makes us more inclined to foster places where our community can thrive together. For example, I came across this neighborly creative placemaking in my own neighborhood just a couple of weeks ago. It was by far the friendliest and most cared for street on my walk.
Churches can be advocates of placemaking in many ways, too. Have you considered hosting your potlucks on the lawn outside and inviting the neighbors? My church does this in the summertime. While I can’t say we have increased our church membership through this monthly activity, local residents have expressed that they appreciate how this meal affords them the opportunity to meet more of their neighbors. I am happy to facilitate an activity that enables neighbors to meet and know one another. Have you thought about hosting a community garden? Or perhaps simply placing some chairs and a drinking fountain under the shade trees on the church lawn?
According to the Church calendar we are also in the midst of Lenten season, anxiously awaiting the celebration of Easter and the new life and hope found in the resurrection of Christ. What if part of that new hope includes building better places and new relationships with our neighbors? I would be hard-pressed to argue that it does not. If Christ came to renew all of creation, then every street, sidewalk, curb, garden, and neighbor is included. Placemaking is an avenue to start developing and caring for the places and relationships that resonate with the dignity of our humanity. Get creative with it!
Did you miss our last Lunch & Learn on creative placemaking? Do you want to know more? Listen to Max Musicant, Principal of The Musicant Group, share about his creative placemaking work with Westminster Presbyterian Church and others through his Creative Placemaking 101 talk at our ZipCode Calling conference last May.
Or check out these other great resources!