Skip to content

New ArtPlace America report explores building community wealth through arts, culture and equitable development

Arts & Culture, General Foundation News

In December 2020, ArtPlace America partnered with Common Future to release a new report in the economic development research sector titled “Building Community Wealth: The Role of Arts and Culture in Equitable Economic Development.”

The paper serves as a field scan of Creative Placemaking that summarizes key trends in economic development and outlines several key tenets of community wealth building: democratic decision-making, collective ownership, reparations and justice, prioritizing workers’ wellbeing, non-extractive investing and sustaining valuable resources. The paper then describes six ways that arts and culture advance community wealth building:

  • Facilitating collaboration for complex group decision-making.
  • Accessing imagination to bring new economic structures into being.
  • Building power to strengthen movements that shift local economic conditions.
  • Healing individuals and communities from extractive labor and economic practices.
  • Making the case for holistic, people-centered financing.
  • Creating new and sustaining existing forms of resource generation. 

Case studies of several organizations leading creative community wealth building are also included in the field scan. 

Higher Purpose Co. is a nonprofit organization focused on community wealth building with Black residents across the Mississippi. Through an integrated model that combines business ownership, narrative change through storytelling and advocacy campaigns, Higher Purpose Co. supports local Black entrepreneurs, farmers and artists in the fight to tackle intergenerational poverty and institutional racism in Mississippi.

Below is an excerpt from Common Future first published in the report. It is an ‘Invitation to Action’ inviting others to learn more about the work ahead and join the movement to uplift the critical role of arts and cultural practices in building a new economy that works for all and extracts from none.  

Invitation to Action
By: Common Future 

As a community wealth building intermediary, Common Future works at the intersection of racial equity and economic justice. The work of ArtPlace and this body of research, authored by Danya Sherman, sits at the intersection of arts and culture and community wealth building. Her findings already are beginning to inform and influence our practice going forward. We are honored to help share this work, intend to build on it with both substance and humility, and invite the readers to join us.

The field scan reflects what we see in our network of leaders working locally to address generational economic challenges. When their solutions are at the intersection of arts, community building, and economic development, they too often operate in relative isolation with insufficient resources.

To follow the release of this report, Common Future will deploy dedicated program funds from ArtPlace into a small number of community wealth-building efforts that deliberately engage arts and culture as integral to the strategy. We know that what’s needed, however, is extended commitment and widespread investment beyond these one-time community advised grants. We would like to continue support to those same efforts and more, over the long term, and will consult with cultural and community leaders to refine how we embrace the connections of arts, culture, equity, and economic justice.

We invite and encourage our colleagues in philanthropy and economic change to consider community-led, arts-integrated solutions to generational economic challenges.

Where are the opportunities to invest in the innovations, experiments, and existing work happening now in underinvested communities? How can more of us make research & development capital available to practicing leaders who are prototyping an equitable economy and dynamic culture?

We invite you to join us, as we join those who have pursued the inquiry and organizing agenda of ArtPlace throughout its history alongside the many arts and cultural organizers and efforts boosting this work. Together, we can drive investment to creatives and community builders in Black/Brown, rural, and other underinvested communities and move forward an equitable economy.

This excerpt was originally published by ArtPlace America. To learn more, download the report or visit

ArtPlace America was a 10-year, $150 million collaboration among a number of foundations, federal agencies, and financial institutions, including Kresge’s Arts & Culture Program. The organization’s mission was to strengthen the Creative Placemaking field and position arts and culture as a core sector of equitable community planning and development. ArtPlace America announced it was officially sunsetting in December 2020. You can learn about the story of ArtPlace in the book, ArtPlace: 10 years. 

Common Future is a national community wealth building network that is working to deepen the arts, culture and community wealth building field in 2021 and beyond.