In 2013, the Levitt Foundation commissioned Slover Linett to conduct a three-part study to better understand and document the impact of permanent Levitt music venues, focusing on community-level outcomes such as community engagement, neighborhood vibrancy, and perceived safety and livability. The first two parts of the study were published in the 2016 white paper, Setting the Stage for Community Change: Reflecting on Creative Placemaking Outcomes. Among other findings, the report examined how the experience of free Levitt concerts fosters social interactions within groups and across demographic boundaries, which, in turn, builds social capital.
The 2021 white paper presents the third part of the research, a Pre/Post Community Research Study at Levitt Pavilion Denver, which explores the precursor to social capital—a sense of belonging. Slover Linett focused on the unique “situatedness” of Ruby Hill Park, including its location and history of use, in order to understand the preconditions for Levitt Pavilion Denver’s creation and how it has begun to contribute to a sense of place and overall community vitality.
Slover Linett used largely qualitative research methods—ethnographic observation, naturalistic in-context interviews, standardized intercept interviews and one-on-one stakeholder interviews—to understand the role and impact of Levitt Pavilion Denver over time and across multiple definitions of “community,” inviting a range of perspectives on the pavilion and its concerts, the park, surrounding neighborhoods, and Denver as a whole. The researchers aimed to be attuned to systemic drivers of equity and inequity in the local community context and to listen for perceptions among area residents, Denver community stakeholders, and concert attendees of how Levitt Pavilion Denver has (or could) play a role in shifting those dynamics.
Both periods of research examined Levitt Pavilion Denver as one model of arts-based community development.
Implications for the Field
When planning creative placemaking projects, find multiple opportunities to identify, honor, and collaborate with a community’s existing cultural assets.
Recognize that the collective memory of a project’s origins may fade and be replaced by new perceptions or suppositions.
Set shared, realistic expectations of change and impact—and link with other efforts to amplify positive outcomes.
Make time to consider potential challenges and opportunities in projects where ownership is shared among organizations and partners with a range of priorities, as well as varied styles, communication modes, and ways of working.
Involve communities of focus in the placemaking work in equitable and culturally responsive ways, particularly in defining desired outcomes at the start.
Acknowledge that communities are not monolithic, and engage in dialogue with local stakeholders and residents to identify which groups the placemaking project will actively engage and serve.
Design the creative placemaking project explicitly to acknowledge the narrative of the space, past and present, to foster an individual sense of belonging to create an environment conducive to bringing people together
for social connectivity.
Acknowledge that creative placemaking work is not neutral, particularly when it involves arts and cultural components that are closely tied to differing community identities.
Work to tie belonging within the creative placemaking space to forms of belonging outside that space, in the surrounding community.