Michigan State University's Director of Arts and Cultural Initiatives Kurt Dewhurst, Ph.D, talked about how to identify, promote and protect a sense of place in a community during the League's Region 2 Education Seminar on May 20 at the Hannah Community Center in East Lansing.

Dewhurst discussed how our places connect us to the past and our community and cultural traditions, while keeping the local environment distinctive. During his talk on developing strategies to reach placemaking goals, he proposed key questions to ask.

1. To identify your community's sense of place, ask what is distinctive about your community, inventory your cultural resources and collect the vfoices and stories of creative people and businesses. Interactive web tools can be a tremendous asset in this process.

2. To promote your sense of place, think beyond the standard, conventional forms of artistic expression to consider aspects of creativity like food and event traditions. Authentic character should be promoted to create a more distinctive sense of place, Dewhurst said.

3. Protect your community's sense of place through historic preservation programs integrated with the living, creatve and cultural heritage of your community. Maximize your investment by using your cultural inventories to guide an adaptive use of your places and spaces.

East Lansing itself was a great example of many of the day's key themes. Its Hannah Community Center is the city's historic high school, rehabbed and repurposed into an attractive community facility. It was also the weekend for the city's annual art festival, which draws thousands of residents and visitors to the downtown and campus area for a celebration of arts, crafts, music, food and entertainment.

The seminar also included six great presentations for the Region 2 Community Excellence Award. Click here to read more about the CEA presentations.

The League's Andy Schor presented an update on Lansing, including the recent victory in securing more funding for revenue sharing and brownfield and historic funding. He also moderated a legislative panel featuring Sen. Rick Jones, Rep. Mark Meadows, Rep. Paul Opsommer and Sen. Gretchen Whitmer. 

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