“Creative Placemaking is generally understood as the use of arts and culture by diverse partners to strategically shape the physical and social character of a place in order to spur economic development, promote enduring social change, and improve the physical environment.” ROW.
Do waterways fit into this definition? Can water be creatively dealt with and shape a space or promote social change? Waterways are an incredibly important part of many Indiana cities and towns for recreational purposes, tourism, sources of water, aesthetics, wildlife habitat, fishing, economic development and a plethora of other reasons. They are also public spaces and provide places for people to gather. A lot of local organizations around the state are currently thinking about their waterways and how to re-energize, reconnect, reclaim, and reinvest in them for the betterment of the public and nature.
Reconnecting to our Waterways (ROW) is a “grassroots initiative designed to reclaim the benefits of Indianapolis’ waterways; to provide opportunities for physical, human, and economic development. It’s about helping neighbors strengthen waterways, and in turn, helping waterways strengthen neighborhoods” ROW.
Reconnecting to our Waterways been around since 2012 and focus on the main waterways in Indianapolis including:
Little Eagle Creek
They have partnered with an incredible amount of state and local organizations: public, private, and non-profit, to help further goals of aesthetics, connectivity, economics, education, ecology, well-being, and more.
But, they also include creative placemaking in their initiatives to improve Indianapolis’ waterways! This group and its leaders encourage local artists and residents in different parts of the city to enhance the waterways which are so integral to the city and re-imagine them in order to get other residents and visitors to see them in a new, more positive light. Enhancing views of the waterways, removing invasive plant species, including art along trails and the waterways, gathering resident input, restoring bridges, planning for pop-up art and community events, and everything in between has been accomplished around these waterways, spurred on by ROW and pushed through by the residents who often become very excited and extremely passionate about reconnecting with their long lost public spaces.
This kind of work is possible in any community which is looking for a new way to engage residents, clean up waterways, reclaim public space, enhance the arts scene, improve economic development, and many more possibilities, some of which may be unique to your community! And while the improvement of each waterway in separate Indiana communities may seem like an isolated improvement, they have a multiplying effect, as they will subsequently improve the waterways in other, connected communities!
ROW has put on creative placemaking workshops, some of which are available on their website, here as well as a document which explains creative placemaking more in depth.
If you are interested in waterways, the health of Indianapolis, engaging with your neighborhood, or creative placemaking, they also have monthly meetings focused around each of their waterways as well as public events at different library branches called Art + Science Brainstorms. Find a way to get involved and make a difference for Indianapolis or through your own communities and waterways around Indiana!
Main Image Source: Indiana Public Media