What is it? There is a growing awareness that arts and culture-related activities and organizations help build community. There are also a wide number of possible activities, competing programs, and differing interpretations of how a locality can best employ arts and culture. A city or region-wide planning process can produce a more widely shared strategic vision and identify ways that arts and culture can impact broader community goals. The process itself can highlight overlooked cultural assets, forge new partnerships, generate community dialogue about the role of the arts, and identify common goals, objectives and action steps to better coordinate programming, spending, and related activities. While experts may play an important role, citizen-led planning efforts that substantively engage a cross section of residents and organizations can also boost leadership and planning capacity.
How has it been used? In 2009, the city of Roanoke, Virginia recognized a need to better understand, coordinate and track the impacts of its many cultural investments. Led by members of the Arts Commission in partnership with a number of partner groups, the city conducted a comprehensive planning process that included community surveys, five focus groups, 11 public input sessions, 15 Commission meetings, and related activities. The final plan identified three overarching goal areas: vibrant region-healthy economy, livable communities and engaged neighborhoods, and increased opportunities – lifelong participation. Each area included goals and a detailed implementation plan. The document was formally adopted in 2011 as part of the city’s comprehensive plan. Since that time, city departments and partner organizations have worked to carry out many of the plan’s objectives. For instance, the neighborhood grants process was revised to include and provide incentives for arts and cultural activities. (Source: Roanoke Arts Commission)