Helen Davis Johnson serves a program officer on the Arts & Culture team at The Kresge Foundation, working to elevate the effective use of arts and culture in transforming and revitalizing communities.
“I’m a firm believer in the power of arts and culture to develop communities,” she says. “The emerging framework of creative placemaking has the potential to improve quality of life issues in urban areas with tools that are uniquely appropriate to the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.”
Before joining the foundation in 2012, Helen co-founded CreateHere in in Chattanooga, Tenn. CreateHere attracted and retained creative community residents through a relocation incentive resulting in home sales exceeding $4 million, built a fellowship program and a grants program.
Active in environmental issues, Helen is a founding member of Take Root, a program that has planted more than 1,400 trees in Chattanooga’s urban core. She spent more than a dozen years in nonprofit and arts administration, building the 4 Bridges Arts Festival, coordinating museum education programs at the Hunter Museum of American Art, and designing and launching community-focused arts initiatives at Allied Arts, all in Chattanooga.
Helen has been tapped to speak at conferences including Art Chicago, Michigan Municipal League, AIGA National, the Sustainable Cities PLUS Network, the Council on Foundations, Lambda Alpha International, and the Tennessee Arts Commission. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts.
She studied at the Florence Academy of Art and earned a bachelor of fine arts from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.