As Robert Gard once said: "If we are seeking in America, let it be seeking for the reality of democracy in the arts. Let art begin at home and let it spread through the children and their parents, and through the schools and the institutions and government. And let us start by acceptance, not negation...acceptance that the arts are important everywhere, that they can exist and flourish in small places as well as large, with money and without it, according to the will of the people. Let us put firmly and permanently aside the cliche that the arts are a frill. Let us accept the goodness of art where we are now, and expand its worth in the places where people live."

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A Note on Terminology

Words such as community development and community building have taken on specific meaning through prolonged and narrow use in other sectors. The term "community development" is largely the property of nonprofit, government agencies, banks and others who construct housing units, manage asset portfolios, and “create” jobs, generally in low-income urban settings. Community development corporations (CDCs) and the community development field have become professionalized to the point where these central functions define them. There are some people and organizations in this industry that do remarkable, holistic work including work in culture and the arts.

“Community building” is a somewhat less long-standing term of art. To many in urban and town planning, architecture, real estate and road building it means the ground-up construction of entire new “communities” or clusters of houses, business properties and civic, social and educational complexes often in “new” places such as large abandoned industrial sites or farm fields.

Making up a new term would simply perpetuate the “we-have-the-right-language- so-you-have-to-speak-ours” phenomenon. In this article, I use both community development and community building interchangeably, stressing that I’m speaking to the larger process of addressing the environmental, social, cultural, civic, physical and economic aspects of human settlement and endeavor.

The term “arts-based community development” rings of self-importance. While I fully believe in cultural strategies for advancing community building, I think placing art at the center of the process suggests the same kind of arrogance that has turned off community organizers in the past. I don’t think it is productive in building coalitions and alliances. Factoring art and culture as among a community’s key assets, as do Kretzmann and McKnight, is far more effective.
(By Tom Borrup What's Revolutionary About Valuing Assets as a Strategy in Cultural Work?)


Atlanta Summer Murals Program

This community project involves children and artists working together to create murals. When they are finished, the murals are placed in recreation centers and other municipal sites around the city.
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