Equitable cultural development : a best practices toolkit for inclusive and sustainable cultural development

Richardson, Ashley Boles
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There exists a great deal of diversity in how municipal departments, coalitions and agencies approach cultural planning, both structurally and procedurally. Cultural development planning and policy-making can fall within the domain of a dedicated group or sub-department of planners, experts and policymakers or can be spread out through many city departments and offices. While these differentiations exist, cultural development is typically taking place within economic development planning departments, particularly by practitioners with strong urban planning expertise. However those leading cultural planning efforts often do not have a background in cultural activities, design, or the fine arts. Because cultural development is not routinized or standardized at any scale of planning, knowledge of what forms of stakeholder engagement and funding mechanisms result in more equitable, inclusive and sustainable cultural development (rather than cultural development pursued for purely economic or business interests) is relatively under-researched. As cultural development and investments are being touted as "growth machines," further research is needed to understand how equitable cultural development can be promoted and strengthened through new form of collaboration between the city, private and non-profit sectors and engaged citizens. There currently exists a gap in determining what internal organization methods (department size, isolated or collaborative agencies, tax base, artistic participation, grassroots advocacy, etc.) result in higher rates of successful and equitable cultural planning. While there is debate within existing scholarship as to the level of correlation or causation between cultural development and certain negative consequences, namely displacement spurred by gentrification, there is little published research regarding the effects of the rapid expansion of cultural development investments occurring within economic planning departments. Within urban planning academia, there is an abundance of theoretical and practical criticism regarding the progression of Florida's "Creative City" tenets, however, little scholarship is being directed to how just, inclusive and equitable social policies and practices can be embedded within cultural planning strategies and initiatives.. The field of equitable cultural development is highly exploratory, but there are several scholarly activists who are beginning to expand upon this approach. The aim of this research is to compile, evaluate and synthesize existing research and case studies to define equitable cultural planning and identify tools and practices that bring cultural development to diverse communities in cities. It is hoped that a clearer understanding of the meaning and tenants of equitable cultural planning and successful examples of how cultural planning can improve access and community- supporting development can provide planners, policymakers and equitable cultural development advocates with new ideas and ways forward in this important domain of planning.