Written by Barbara Dzidzornu Adagblenya* (Senior Analyst)
Cultural planning has emerged as a powerful tool to weave communities together. Over its history, Nordicity has developed expertise in creating culture plans in Canada, the United Kingdom and around the world. Here are seven trends emerging from Nordicity’s recent cultural planning projects:
- Embracing Cultural Diversity and Building Relationships. Municipalities are celebrating the many cultures that contribute to their identity. Cultural initiatives aim to showcase distinct cultures, like the richness of Indigenous heritage, immigrant communities, and the cultural expressions of other demographic groups. Municipal cultural planning processes ensure that all voices are heard and included through community engagement. Municipalities are building ties with equity priority and underserved groups through arts and culture initiatives (e.g., Black, Indigenous and Persons of Colour (BIPOC), 2SLGBTQI+ communities, Persons with disabilities, newcomers, and unhoused individuals).
- Activating Public Spaces through Creative Placemaking. Along with the celebration of cultures, municipalities are committed to creating inclusive cultural spaces. These spaces, activated through creative placemaking, boost the cultural participation of residents and visitors alike. Creative placemaking contributes to the vibrancy of downtown through arts and culture including public art and events.
- Focusing on Community Engagement and Collaboration. Municipalities are using collaborative models in cultural planning by involving their communities in decision-making processes. This bottom-up approach ensures that cultural initiatives resonate with the people they serve. Residents are actively contributing to shaping the cultural fabric of their municipalities.
- Investing in the Creative Economy as a Driving Force. Recognizing the economic potential of cultural industries, municipalities are investing in creative hubs. They are supporting local artists and promoting cultural events as economic drivers. This trend not only enriches the cultural landscape but also stimulates economic growth. Cultural industries contribute to the cultivation of a vibrant creative sector by stimulating employment, tourist attraction, and consumer spending.
- Recognizing Social Impact and Wellness. Municipalities are acknowledging the social and wellness benefits that arts and culture bring to residents. From enhancing quality of life to improving mental health and overall well-being, cultural activities create social connections in the community. These activities also build social capital and cohesion.
- Linking Culture and Sustainability. Municipalities are recognizing the need to align cultural planning with environmental stewardship. Initiatives include eco-friendly cultural spaces to initiatives promoting sustainable practices within the cultural sector. This positions cultural planning as a catalyst for broader community sustainability. For example, cultural activities present a way to foster dialogue and awareness of environmental issues.
- Incorporating Technology. Municipalities are leveraging technology to enhance cultural experiences. Technology is being integrated into cultural planning activities, from virtual exhibits and online platforms to interactive cultural maps. This trend has become more common following the COVID-19 pandemic. Cultural activities increasingly offer hybrid and virtual options. The trend broadens access to cultural events for diverse community members. It also ensures that the younger, tech-savvy generation remains engaged in celebrating cultural heritage.
While these trends evolve, municipalities continue to navigate the complexities of cultural planning. The goal remains clear – to create inclusive, dynamic, and resilient communities that proudly showcase the diversity of cultures.
*Barbara Dzidzornu Adagblenya is a Senior Analyst at Nordicity’s Vancouver Office. Barbara contributes to research, data analysis, diverse stakeholder engagement, workshop facilitation, project reporting, and has been a member of several cultural and strategic planning teams at Nordicity.