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Reimagining community: Community arts and cultural planning in America

Craig Allen Dreeszen, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The dissertation examines the effects of community arts and cultural planning on the local arts agencies that organized the planning and upon their communities. Community cultural planning is a structured community-wide, public/private process, that identifes community arts and cultural resources, needs, and opportunities, and plans actions and secures resources to address priority needs. A survey of the entire known population of cultural planning communities was the central research method. An on-site case study was conducted, nation-wide published plans were analyzed, and interviews conducted. Findings confirm that cultural planning is a widely distributed and growing practice. Many plans are wholly devoted to arts development and generally, more recommendations for action are devoted to the problems of arts organizations than to the problems of cities. Cultural planning does however, inspire community arts leaders to appreciate a broader civic constituency and plans increasingly apply the arts to build better communities. The most significant reported effects of cultural planning on local arts agencies were increased agency visibility/credibility, better understood community needs, and increased agency funding. Community effects were more responsive programs and services, increased civic awareness of local arts and culture, improved arts and civic communications, and increased access to the arts. Communities completing cultural plans sustained or increased arts funding in contrast to a national trend of reduced funding. The most significant effect of cultural planning was increased awareness of civic leaders and arts leaders of the potential of the arts to enhance community well being. Cultural planning is not without problems. The combination of ambitious agendas for change, the general lack of prioritization among objectives, ambiguity about who is to be responsible to take what actions, the tendency to not project implementation costs or sources of revenues, attempts by local arts agencies to continue previous programs while accepting new responsibilities, and the commitment of inadequate new funding creates a persistent problem of raised expectations without the resources to meet them. However, cultural planning yields significant benefits both to local arts agencies and to communities and should be encouraged. There are enough risks, that cultural planning should not be required as a prerequisite to funding.

Subject Area

Urban planning|Area planning & development|Fine Arts|Cultural anthropology

Recommended Citation

Dreeszen, Craig Allen, "Reimagining community: Community arts and cultural planning in America" (1994). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9510463.