Top stories of 2017

As we close the book on the year that was 2017, we’re taking a look back at the stories we shared that resonated the most. Thank you all for your continued support of Creative Exchange and the socially-minded creative work we highlight here, and we look forward to sharing more with you in 2018!

New Creative Placemaking Toolkit for Business Districts
A partnership between the International Downtown Association and Springboard for the Arts to support creative placemaking partnerships between artists and local business initiatives was launched in January. Six projects in cities across America were awarded $5,000 grants; here we give an overview of those six projects as well as present the free toolkit for other business districts that would like to create similar projects of their own.

What would happen if the NEA were defunded, and why should we care?
A hard question with no easy answer, here we take a look at the integral role the NEA plays in supporting economic development, employment, and underserved communities throughout the country.

Ursula Rucker. Photo by Neal Santos.

Poet Ursula Rucker uses rage to find humanity
Working in the tradition of politically-minded Black female poets like Nikki Giovanni and Sonia Sanchez – in fact, Sanchez was her professor and mentor – Ursula Rucker has been involved in projects with The Roots, King Britt, Maya Angelou, and Jetsonorama, channeling her righteous rage to address issues involving women, children, and indigenous peoples on the planet.

Artists & Aging: Access, Storytelling & Change
Through the Artists & Aging pilot project, artist teams worked with aging communities on creative projects, holding critical conversations around the ideas of “home,” and sharing experiences and insights that can be translated to policy work. This is a look at all of the different projects that came from it.

Honoring Inuit culture through traditional tattoos
Holly Mititquq Nordlum is an Inupiaq artist in Anchorage who works to promote and preserve her Alaskan Inuit culture by bringing back traditional Inuit tattooing practices, called tupik.

Ori Naftaly (guitar) & Tierinii Jackson (vocals). Photo courtesy of the Downtown Memphis Commission.

Busking in Memphis
The Downtown Memphis Commission began an effort in 2016 to honor the rich musical heritage of the city of Memphis by getting local musicians to perform live on the pedestrian-only Main Street Mall during peak hours.

Citizen artist: Eric Liu on artists’ role in civic life
Eric Liu, co-founder and CEO of Citizen University, says that artists embody what it means to be a citizen – not a person’s paperwork status, but a person’s membership in a community; their participation in civic life and in public spaces and institutions.

Tennessee Ukulele Lady Kelle Jolly continues the legacy of Affrilachian music
Jazz vocalist and musician Kelle Jolly wanted to honor the Affrilachian cultural traditions she finds herself a part of in Tennessee, so she picked up the ukulele and became the “Tennessee Ukulele Lady,” hosting workshops and carrying on East Tennessee music traditions while also bringing together women in jazz.

“Miss Neighbor Lady” Kathy Mouacheupao hosts “Gatherings” in her St. Paul neighborhood
Kathy Mouacheupao wanted to get to know her neighbors in Rondo, so she started hosting art- and food-based gatherings in community gardens throughout the neighborhood.

Storefront art programs reflect cities’ changes & challenges
In the aftermath of the Great Recession, cities large and small used art in empty storefronts to activate those spaces and reinvigorate struggling retail corridors.