Culture in Detroit’s Regeneration


In October 2011, The Kresge Foundation, a charitable foundation in the United States commissioned AuthentiCity and MDB Insight to undertake a Detroit Cultural Mapping Project. The mapping project was one component of Re-imagining Detroit, a $40 million integrated regeneration project for the city. The final report, entitled Creative Vitality in Detroit, included a thorough analysis of the creative cultural economy as it pertains to the Tri-County region surrounding Detroit, with a focused analysis of the City of Detroit.  The second aspect of the project was a cultural asset mapping process that identified more than 1300 cultural assets across a wide range of categories and spatially mapped these assets to identify clusters or cultural districts. Three districts were chosen, with additional mapping and analysis conducted on those areas of the city. The final part of the project completed focused on identifying success stories in the creative cultural sector that communicate the City’s creative vitality and that speak to the powerful role of cultural resources play in generating the social as well as economic capital central to revitalization.

The Kresge Foundation also funds a National Arts and Culture Program that in recent years has reoriented its funding toward creative placemaking, an area of growing attention in both the United States and Canada. Placemaking has long been a concept in urban planning as an approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces is not new. In this context, placemaking is focused on improvements to the public realm through interventions including landscaping, urban design, public art, among others. Creative placemaking embodies many of these ideas but with a higher cultural ‘quotient.’ Like cultural planning, creative placemaking combines the goals and methods of community development, cultural development and economic development with a place-based and asset-based orientation. Evidence has demonstrated that creative placemaking has resulted in a wide range of positive outcomes including job creation, strengthening networks, building social capital and community capacity, among others. The Kresge Foundation believes a systematic mapping of cultural assets in a community has important contributions to make to this important new agenda.