Archive for the ‘Creative Placemaking’ Category

Engaging and Empowering Montgomery County’s Arts and Humanities Sector

Thursday, April 18th, 2019

Dear Colleagues,

Summer is a busy time filled with camps, concerts, festivals, and more, and it’s right around the corner! With students out of school and families seeking opportunities to engage in Montgomery County’s cultural happenings, summer can also lead to an uptick in attendance. Take this great opportunity to get a snap shot of your audience by holding a focus group, hosting a talk-back or meet the artist reception, or conducting a survey to ascertain who you are engaging, what attracts them to your organization, and why they attended your event! As noted in Americans for the Arts’ blog Audience Engagement is NOT Community Engagement, these kinds of audience engagement strategies are designed to deepen relationships with your current stakeholders and over time, improve retention, increase frequency of attendance and expand reach through stakeholder networks.

Knowing your current audience will also tell you who in your community is not engaged; providing you an opportunity to develop outreach and community engagement strategies to expand your reach.  Remember audience engagement is not community engagement, and according to Arts Engaged, “community engagement is important to the long-term viability of arts organizations and to the well-being of the communities they serve.” This statement aligns with Montgomery County’s current reality, mirroring our rich, diverse, and ever-changing population. As the county’s demographics continue to shift, our arts and culture community must adapt to these changes in order to remain relevant and connected with the communities we aim to serve.

Effective community engagement begins by building relationships. Before designing programs based on what we think our community wants, begin with the simple and slow process of learning about the community you are targeting.  Listen to the people, involve them in the planning process, and address the issues they tell you are most important to them. Arts Engaged believes that “in successful engagement work no change should happen quickly…” and AHCMC agrees. Building authentic relationships takes time, but the value of this work can make your organization an indispensable pillar of your community’s framework. Check out Create Community Connections: Embarking on Community Engagement for some ideas to help kick-start this process.

Lastly, I would like to leave you with this thought. Words Matter. Think about how you are giving voice to your community. As we work to reflect the diversity of Montgomery County, let us practice creative placekeeping: the active care and maintenance of a place and its social fabric by the people who founded, live and work there. This mindset values the cultural memories associated with a locale by supporting and honoring those that came before. Much like the American Museum of Natural History engaged audiences by asking them to reconsider the historical inaccuracies and stereotypes perpetuated in a diorama designed to shape the American public’s understanding of Indigenous people, let us also find ways to positively and accurately uplift the various cultures represented in our county. I’m excited to work collaboratively with you as we engage and empower Montgomery County’s arts and humanities sector this summer and well into the future.


Public Art as a Catalyst for Community Engagement

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

Michele Cohen, Ph.D is an public art expert who has been working with AHCMC and the Montgomery County Public Art Trust to manage the commissioning and conservation of the County’s broad collection of outdoor sculpture and two-dimensional works.  Below, she blogs about our most recent public art initiative: The Wheaton Outdoor Living Room:

In tune with contemporary public art trends which emphasize social engagement, the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County recently launched an innovative public art initiative in Wheaton’s Arts & Entertainment District (AED).  MIT-trained public artist Matthew Mazzotta, widely known  for his award winning project “Open House“, visited Wheaton and met with residents, business owners, and elected officials over the course of a week to gain a sense of Wheaton’s past, present, and future – from the community’s perspective.

At the end of his visit, Matthew staged an “Outdoor Living Room” in the middle of  Wheaton Veteran’s Park, located in the convergence of Downtown, the Wheaton AED and Central Business District.  The sight of rugs, sofas, and lamps in the middle of this public space helped spark an incredible dialogue about public art amongst a diverse cross section of community members.

Matthew’s projects grow from the inside out; not only do they provide visual interest, they act as sounding boards and community catalysts.

Before Matthew’s arrival, we collected ideas and feedback from Wheaton residents and policy-makers about how our new “Wheaton Cultural Grants” funding opportunity could help support local creative placemaking activities and promote Wheaton’s relatively young Arts & Entertainment District.  We held several charrettes to hear directly from residents how they envisioned the arts and humanities playing a transformative role in their community.  What we learned was that Wheaton’s cultural and creative community wanted more places to display expressions of culture that embodied the spirit and diversity of their community and that would have the potential to transform Wheaton into a cultural and creative destination.

These outreach and research activities culminated in Matthew’s “Outdoor Living Room” which was an inspiring convening of community members truly invested in Wheaton’s future.  Matthew is developing a proposal for a public art design informed by his observations and the feedback he received.  We all look forward to seeing the next stages of this incredible project take shape!

Art in Transit: Call to Artists for The Purple Line

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

The deadline to submit applications for the Purple Line Art-In-Transit has been extended to Friday, November 28, 2014!

Ever wondered how cool and creative public artwork ends up in the Metro?  Are you an artist who thinks your artwork would catch the eye of the millions of busy commuters who use the Metro every day?  Well, this opportunity is for you!

The Maryland Transit Administration’s (MTA) General Engineering Consultant Team (GEC) seeks artists to create enhancements for the future Purple Line light rail project which will connect Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland. Professional artists, preferably with public art experience are encouraged to apply.

Artists will be asked to work with the communities along the corridor to create artwork that highlights the cultural vitality of the region, and reflects the artistic, cultural and/or historical interests of the surrounding communities.

For more information, visit or write to

New Grants to Support Creative Placemaking in the Wheaton Arts & Entertainment District

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

We want to hear from you!

The Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County is planning an exciting new initiative to transform local communities in Wheaton through the arts and humanities.

In FY15, we received an appropriation of $90,000 to be used to stimulate the Wheaton Arts and Entertainment District. These new grant funds will target artists, scholars, and arts and humanities organizations in Wheaton, MD to support its burgeoning growth as an acclaimed cultural destination.

We are exploring a variety of creative placemaking projects that may include live performances and music series, temporary arts installations, projects that convert underutilized public and private spaces into sites for arts experiences, and more.  Our community organizer Alex Cartagena has been on the ground in Wheaton introducing our initiative to the public and getting feedback and ideas from local artists, individuals, and organizations.

A rendering of the town plaza being designed for Wheaton via StonebridgeCarras

Get Involved.

Voice your opinion at one of the several charrettes we are hosting to give residents and other stakeholders in Wheaton a chance to share their ideas  on what types of projects we should support.

  • Wednesday, December 3 (6pm-9pm) at Hollywood East
  • Wednesday, December 10 (12pm-3pm) at Limerick Pub
  • Saturday, December 13 (10am-1pm) at Midcounty Regional Ctr.
  • Then, in January 2015 we will have finalized the guidelines for these grants, which will be awarded by June 30, 2015.

    The possibilities are endless – that’s why we are asking community members to share with us their artistic vision and aspirations for Wheaton.

    How do you think the arts and humanities can make a difference in this unique community?  Email us your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions at and stay tuned to our FB page for more information!