CH mayor and Ensemble director attend national placemaking workshop

Participants in the Local Leaders’ Institute on Creative Placemaking. Cleveland Heights Mayor Carol Roe and Ensemble Theatre Director Celeste Cosentino are in the front row, third and fourth from left. Photo by Brian O’Doherty.

Cleveland Heights Mayor Carol Roe and Ensemble Theatre Executive Artistic Director Celeste Cosentino traveled to Washington, D.C., in mid-July to attend the inaugural Local Leaders’ Institute on Creative Placemaking. They were among six teams, each comprising a local arts leader and a government official, representing small, medium and rural communities that were selected to participate from among 148 applicants.

Cosentino spearheaded an effort last year to apply for a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Our Town grant for the Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Campus project. Though she did not receive a grant, she was invited to apply for the workshop.

“I learned so much about how integral arts and culture are to community cohesion and how there are courageous ways to think outside of the box to solve civic issues,” said Cosentino about her experience at the institute. “I saw so many ways in which arts and cultural organizations have and can become catalysts for community vision as well as platforms for unique and successful sustainable development.”

NEA and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) designed the intensive workshop to help participants implement successful creative placemaking projects to strengthen their local communities.

Participants traveled to NEA’s offices July 16–18 to meet with a creative placemaking resource team with expertise in a range of topics, including partnership with artists, community engagement, and project management. They also engaged in a rigorous peer knowledge exchange. The goal was to enable participants to return to their communities better prepared to carry out arts, culture and design projects that will yield catalytic, long-term, equitable outcomes for their communities.

“Communities of all shapes and sizes are embarking on creative placemaking projects,” stated Jennifer Hughes, director of design and creative placemaking at NEA. “This is an opportunity for the NEA to support this work in a new way, by facilitating hands-on learning and peer exchange during a two-day Institute.”

“Arts and culture are powerful catalysts for strengthening social cohesion, and building equitable economic opportunity in communities of all sizes,” said Lynne McCormack, national program director of creative placemaking at LISC. “This kind of shared learning helps local leaders develop creative placemaking plans and projects that will serve their communities’ development now and in the future.”

Using knowledge gleaned from the workshop, Ensemble, its Coventry P.E.A.C.E. partners, and the city of Cleveland Heights must now decide whether to apply for a 2020 Our Town grant this August, or wait until the following year.

This initiative is a part of the efforts of Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Campus to renovate its building to enable more efficient operations to better serve the community.

“I gained a deeper appreciation of the value of art in enhancing community conversation and reinforcement of the need to have underrepresented voices at the discussion table,” said Roe. “The most exciting suggestion was to produce an original play to tell the story of Coventry P.E.A.C.E. and its place in our city’s history. Whatever we do, it is essential to capture the voices of underrepresented populations.”

In addition to the Cleveland Heights team, the five other communities that participated were: Cherokee Village, Ark.; Dorchester County, Md.; Lexington, Ky.; Paonia, Colo.; and Ulster County, N.Y.

Established by Congress in 1965, NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities.

LISC forges resilient and inclusive communities of opportunity across America—great places in which to live, work, visit, do business and raise families. Since 1979, LISC has invested $20 billion to build or rehab 400,500 affordable homes and apartments and develop 66.8 million square feet of retail, community and educational space. Learn more at

Deanna Bremer Fisher

Deanna Bremer Fisher is executive director of FutureHeights and publisher of the Heights Observer.

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Volume 12, Issue 8, Posted 11:03 AM, 07.23.2019