Validating Arts and Livability Indicators in Selected Communities

Urban Institute   (NNIP Coordinator)

April 2013

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) promotes creative placemaking with its flagship Our Town initiative and its predecessor, the Mayor’s Institute on City Design 25th Anniversary initiative.  These initiatives demonstrate the NEA’s commitment to public engagement with arts by advancing such activities as art and design in public space, community arts fairs, and cultural festivals. The desired outcome of these efforts is to strengthen communities and enhance community livability through initiatives that have the arts, design or cultural activities at their core.

The NEA has hypothesized that its creative placemaking interventions will primarily impact communities in the following ways:

  • Creative placemaking will have a positive effect on artists and the surrounding arts community
  • Residents’ attachment to communities will be affected by creative placemaking
  • Creative placemaking will improve the quality of life for neighborhood residents
  • Local economic conditions, including local business and property values, will be positively affected


To support local measurement of these effects, the Urban Institute has undertaken a year-long project with two primary purposes:

  1. To qualitatively validate in selected communities a set of arts and livability indicators to help understand the extent to which these indicators available at the national level capture the effects of creative placemaking as perceived “on the ground” in communities of different kinds.  
  2. To develop an annotated directory of local data sources as a resource to identify local-level livability indicators and data sources that can be used to monitor dimensions of livability in communities undertaking creative placemaking efforts. The catalog can be accessed on the NEA project website.