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Creative Placemaking in South Salt Lake

Posted By Salt Lake County ZAP
June 29, 2016

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How do you define Creative Placemaking? What does it look like, and how are Creative Placemaking strategies being used in South Salt Lake?

Creative Placemaking can be described as “partners from public, private, non-profit, and community sectors strategically shaping the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, city, or regions around arts and cultural activities.  Creative placemaking animates public and private spaces, rejuvenates structures and streetscapes, improves local business viability and public safety, and brings diverse people together to celebrate, inspire, and be inspired.”

-Ann Markusen and Anne Gadwa, A White Paper for The Mayor’s Institute on City Design, a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts.

inside south salt lake murals at salt lake tile building 153w 2100s

Why do Creative Placemaking?

The South Salt Lake Arts Council believes that Creative Placemaking can positively impact three aspects of life in communities ranging from rural, small cities, and metropolitan areas. 


People experience favorable liveability outcomes through increased community identity, neighborhood beautification, and improved relations between civic, for-profit, and nonprofit organizations.  All of this leads to personal and community mental health, which is South Salt Lake’s (SSL) #1 priority. 


Another reason Creative Placemaking is right for SSL is because of the unique Places in our city.   We have a diverse mix of residential and light industrial that creates a unique, first-tier suburban community that is just right for creative interventions. 


And Prosperity is also impacted as arts and cultural programs help localities retain local dollars, and entice new creative business, innovative thinkers, and visitors into our city.  SSL promotes the idea to our arts and cultural community that the City is not building our Arts District, they are!  And as a Local Arts Agency, we can help facilitate the relationships and partnerships that will make this possible.

In South Salt Lake

In South Salt Lake, this means rallying everyone, including local artists, creative business owners, residents, volunteers, City employees, our Arts Coalition, and all our other partners, in support of the arts and how the arts can revitalize and bring our community together.  It means bringing everyone into the conversation, thinking outside the box, and finding new ways to attack the giant task of becoming that place that we believe South Salt Lake will one day be -- a unique, hip and cool arts community, unlike anything else in Utah.  And through creative placemaking efforts, we can attack the monumental task of transforming our city with exciting, temporary, short-term, and small scale projects, similar to my favorite concept “Urban Acupuncture”, that will help us achieve our goal.

Arts District

BTW…...South Salt Lake is in the midst of big change.  Our City has created a 25 year master plan to redevelop our downtown.  And a big part of this is the creation of our Arts District and the pledge to support and retain our local artists, creative businesses, and innovative thinkers.  South Salt Lake is becoming a haven for emerging artists and incubator industries because of lower rent and underutilized warehouse and work spaces.  And we believe that they are a vital part of the conversations as we move forward.

Arts Coalition

We started our creative placemaking efforts through the formation of our Arts Coalition, a group of artists, business owners, residents, and other stakeholders with unique talents and diverse perspectives, who all contribute to the shared vision.  The Arts Coalition holds monthly meetings, social gatherings, focus groups, and other networking opportunities to create partnerships and get everyone stoked about what’s happening in South Salt Lake, and to brainstorm and plan for the future.  From these events, we have identified common challenges and priorities, as well as ways to overcome these issues and achieve our goals.

common wealth inside south salt lake

Inside South Salt Lake 

Another Creative Placemaking effort was our Commonwealth: Inside South Salt Lake mural project.  This project, inspired by the Inside Out Project (, consisted of large-scale, black and white photos featuring members of our arts community, and highlighted the ways in which they contribute to our arts and culture sector.  The photos were wheat pasted on several buildings in our downtown Commonwealth Arts District.  The project achieved our goals of generating awareness about the many unique artists, creative businesses, and innovative thinkers in SSL, and creating dialogue among our arts community.  Additionally, our first event to kick off our participation in Gallery Stoll and unveil the Inside South Salt Lake project was a big success as well.

community art

There's More

We are also in the process of other Creative Placemaking projects and strategies.  We are working to create an Arts District Master Plan through a feasibility study that will help us determine strengths, challenges, and strategies in developing our downtown Arts District.  We have been working with our Artist in Residence Roger Whiting in creating welcoming and interactive mosaic murals and sculptures at our community centers.  And we are especially excited about our upcoming innovative Mailbox and Geocache Art Project, working with reclaimed metal artists Fred Conlin and others at SugarPost Metal in SSL in the creation of interactive mailboxes for the creative businesses in our city.  And our successful Utility Box Art Project has become a model for other communities around the Wasatch Front.

utility box art

As the LAA for our community, we know that fulfilling our mission to unite our community through art, and building our Arts District will require much hard work, vision, and perseverance.  But we also recognize that we have the resources we need within our own community to solve our problems.  Through creative placemaking efforts, we can provide engaging arts and cultural opportunities for our residents and visitors as we work to create a welcoming and uniquely creative neighborhood in South Salt Lake.

-Lesly Allen

Lesly Allen is the Arts Council Coordinator for South Salt Lake.  She has a Masters degree in Community Leadership with an emphasis in Arts Administration from Westminster College.  Lesly also serves on the Board of Directors for Utah Arts Alliance and Splore.  Lesly has a passion for public art and using art as a way to unite and revitalize communities.  Lesly is a native of Salt Lake City, has four beautiful daughters, and enjoys skiing, cycling, and riding her motorcycle.