What is the impact of Creative Placemaking?

UG Planning + Urban Design
5 min readMay 20, 2022

Marlene Torres-Pardo/ Planning Intern

When I was a child, it always cheered me up to drive by a colorful work of art. It piqued my interest in art and history, fascinating me each time. So, I picked up painting, sculpting, and drawing early on adding my own touch to each stroke and line. Growing up my family didn’t have the means to access shows or art classes, but public spaces were a place that I could learn and appreciate culture and history. As a planner, it is important for me to advocate and create public spaces for all to enjoy. Public Art offers equal opportunity to diverse communities to access to meaningful expression and engagement. It is an investment that supports a creative economy for local artists and makers. Creation is meant to be explored, touched, and experienced in a open scene.

Parade of hearts placemaking project Abre tu Corazon by DNKC Galicia at Southwest BLVD KCMO

Public art reflects a society’s values and creates a unique sense of place. Public art humanizes the built environment and invigorates public spaces — (Americans for The Arts Page 1). It also adds value that creates harmony representing history, present, and future moments. This is freedom of expression that allows for the public to show case things that hold significance. Most importantly, it brings power back to the public to define a place.

In Kansas City, we have places such as Cesar Chavez Avenue, Kansas Avenue, and neighborhoods like Argentine, Strawberry Hill, & Armourdale among others that have a wealth of public art, specifically murals. These places have established a strong cultural identity that characterize Wyandotte. The cultural value and identity of place persuades visitors or residents to be a part of the built environment. When there are places that have a strong presence of public art available, they tend to provide a sense of place that brings people together. A sense of place can impact someone for the rest of their lives.

A beloved and local Kansas City artist by the name Jose Faus shares his take on how a mural changes the landscape of the community: “The idea is that sometimes if you forget what community is about — you build cities that nobody wants to live in. That’s deathly,” says Faus ( Michelle Tyrene Johnson KCUR).

He mentioned how a local resident of the Argentine Neighborhood cleared vegetation obscuring his mural because he wanted everyone to see this work of art. Murals are part of a celebration and embrace the community. A mural is not about who painted it. The significance public art holds within the people who then take care of and have pride in their community. Jose Faus also noted that murals are the complexity in our lives we all share. Investing in public art supports the local economy and local artists.

As you walk around the Argentine neighborhood, you see stimulating, vibrant, and storytelling murals that speak truth. Murals hold meaningful messages that can last a lifetime. The first Mexican workers settled in the neighborhood to lay the railroad tracks that financially grew the entire region. Hispanic communities were built around the rail yard, and the artist of this mural captured their way of life into this vibrant work of art. This mural depicts their home and the period of racial segregation.

Boxcar Homes Mural by Jose Faus, Alicia Gambino & Jesus Ortiz at 3001 Metropolitan Avenue

The Cesar Chavez mural is a cultural representation for Hispanic and Latino communities to embrace their heritage. The mural honors the Latino leaders who initiated the movement to change Southwest Boulevard to Cesar Chavez Avenue. Now more than ever, this street serves as a symbol of the community that is facing gentrification to and one seeks to maintain their community’s identity.

Cesar Chávez Mural by Juan Moya is at Avenida Cesar E Chávez KCMO

The Strawberry Hill Neighborhood is another historic neighborhood with a story that highlights the Croatian/ Slavic/ Russian and other Eastern European immigrants. After facing an historic flood that forced the community to rebuild on higher grand up in what was then strawberry vine hills. The strawberry in the hand of the murals subject, early settler Mathias Splitlog, is a forever symbol of resilience that shapes the identity of Strawberry Hill.

Mathias Splitlog Mural Artist Gregory Kolsto at 548 Central Avenue.

This mural was completed by John Bonifacio Moreno, a Day of the Dead themed the message for this impactful piece that illustrates the meaning of family, faith, and forgiveness.

Día De Muertos Mural Artist John Bonifacio Moreno South 10th Street and Osage Avenue

The 1% Art program is a fund that can support creative placemaking projects in cities. These incentives provide opportunities for local artists to create meaningful creative solutions that transform the built environment of a city. Public Art is a tribute to the communities’ cultures and history that invites other to see. Take a second to look at murals in your area and support public art in your city!


Americans for the Hear: Microsoft Word — Public ArtNetwork_Green Paper (americansforthearts.org)

Westside Neighborhood — 25 Years After Designation, Westside Residents Remain Proud Of Avenida Cesar Chavez | KCUR 89.3 — NPR in Kansas City. Local news, entertainment and podcasts.

Argentine- Take A Journey Through History Along The Argentine Mural In KCK | KCUR 89.3 — NPR in Kansas City. Local news, entertainment and podcasts.

Strawberry Hill — About Our History — Strawberry Hill Neighborhood Association (strawberryhillkck.org)

Armourdale- José Faus on KCK’s diverse, historic murals, plus a visual tour (thepitchkc.com)