Translating Outcomes: Reflections on ArtPlace America’s Cross Sector Research

Jamie Hand


ArtPlace America (ArtPlace) was a ten-year collaboration among a number of foundations, federal agencies, and financial institutions that supported the field of creative placemaking – the intentional integration of arts, culture, and community-engaged design strategies into the process of equitable community planning and development. Within this mandate, ArtPlace conducted the “Translating Outcomes” research initiative from 2015 to 2020 – an incremental, segmented approach to building creative placemaking knowledge for and with a diverse range of community development practitioners. Recognizing that comprehensive community development is composed of many professional disciplines, ArtPlace identified ten segments of the field that are often separated out as distinct municipal agencies, university departments, or funding streams: Agriculture & Food, Economic Development, Environment & Energy, Health, Housing, Immigration, Public Safety, Transportation, Workforce Development, and Youth Development. The Translating Outcomes research design took this segmentation as its road map and set out to analyze, make legible, and give language to how arts and cultural practitioners have long been partners in helping to achieve each of these sectors’ goals. For each of the ten sectors, ArtPlace engaged countless partners to conduct research, convene cross-sector working groups, publish field scans, and create resources specific to each sector. The effort was explicitly participatory, designed to elevate the knowledge and expertise of community residents, artists, and community development practitioners through interviews, convenings, and research review. As a hybrid institution straddling funding, policy, advocacy, and grassroots spheres, ArtPlace occupied a unique and privileged platform that allowed it to catalyze multidisciplinary research and action at the scale of this initiative. After providing a review of the published outputs and the work it has seeded in other sectors, I share in the following a reflection on both the conditions required to cultivate such cross-sector communities of practice and the opportunities for further scholarship that may impact vibrant ecologies of research.

Translating Outcomes: Reflections on ArtPlace America’s Cross Sector Research


August 4, 2022 (578 views *)


The values and approach that ArtPlace embodied through the Translating Outcomes initiative is in direct alignment with Ground Works’s mission to advance interdisciplinary collaboration, and to do so through participatory, peer-reviewed processes. While the Translating Outcomes work was expressly oriented toward community-based practitioners, it contributed to a conceptual shift in arts research and policy that individual academic scholars have long advocated for. As such, there is an exciting opportunity to build a multi-dimensional research agenda across academic disciplines and institutions using the ArtPlace research as a foundation.


The ecology that ArtPlace America’s Translating Outcomes research sought to influence, put most simply, is the field of comprehensive community development – a diverse and expansive ecology composed of everyone who wakes up and thinks about shaping the future of a community. Since the Great Recession in 2008, there has been growing emphasis within federal policy on place-based community change as well as the value and importance of community self-determination; Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grants and the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) initiatives are two such interagency programs launched during the first term of the Obama administration. Over the last decade the philanthropic sector, too, has increasingly sought to embed arts and culture within other program areas and investments; the Kresge Foundation’s “Fresh, Local & Equitable: Food as a Creative Platform for Neighborhood Revitalization” program and the Strong, Prosperous, and Resilient Communities Challenge (SPARCC) initiative, for example, were both built on the premise that culture can be a mechanism for community change. ArtPlace’s segmented research – designed precisely to distill the complex community development ecology into naturally occurring audiences or stakeholder groups – serves as a roadmap and highly visible platform to advance dialogue about the role of arts and cultural practices within place-based, community-led transformation on the national and local levels.


With the exception of work led by groups such as Animating Democracy ( and University of Pennsylvania's Social Impact of the Arts Project (, national research about the value of arts and culture has been largely framed in terms of educational or economic impacts. When the National Endowment for the Arts introduced the concept of ‘creative placemaking’ in 2010, followed in quick succession by the creation of ArtPlace, the risk of defaulting once again to traditional economic development outcomes was significant. As outlined in the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s expansive reflection on ArtPlace’s origins and tenure, ArtPlace’s decision to more generously define community development -- and to immerse ourselves in the impacts that immigration advocates, environmental scientists, homeless service organizations, community health workers (and more) care about -- widened the aperture and expanded our collective imagination about the spheres in which artists and their unique skill sets show up in communities. Additionally, ArtPlace’s analysis operated quite differently from traditional philanthropic research, focusing on language and framing rather than formal impact evaluations of a project or place. The goal was not to assess ArtPlace’s grantmaking, but rather to support the creative placemaking field more broadly by creating on-ramps for those who had never considered arts and culture to step into creative collaborations for the first time.


Exploring the intersection of the arts with each discipline or sector involved incorporating historic and current projects, prior research, shared and competing conceptual frameworks, and both arts and non-arts practitioners’ perspectives into our analysis of “what the arts can do” in that particular sector. Approaching the sectors one at a time, with rigorous segmentation, allowed for nuanced framing and language specific to each discipline – the “translating” aspect of the initiative. Art’s ability to reflect a community’s identity, for example, showed up as “anti-displacement work” in the housing sector while the very same concept can be understood as integral to “welcoming initiatives” in the immigration sector.

Figure 1. ArtPlace Community Development Matrix. ArtPlace created the Community Development Matrix to visually illustrate the range of disciplines and stakeholders within the community development field. ArtPlace used the matrix in many ways, but primarily as a systems map for the Translating Outcomes research initiative.
A black and white square grid. The names of ten subsectors within community development are listed down the left side of the grid, alphabetically from top to bottom (Agriculture & Food, Economic Development, Energy & Environment, Health, Housing, Immigration, Public Safety, Transportation, Workforce Development, and Youth Development). Across the top of the grid, from left to right, are the names of different stakeholder types within each of those sectors (Civic, Social & Faith; Nonprofit; Government; Philanthropy; and Commercial).
At the same time, working through all ten sectors sequentially, as an iterative series rather than as independent research efforts, allowed for a compelling meta-analysis that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. Patterns and groupings emerged; for example, the methods of artistic practice that are most relevant in infrastructure and planning fields (such as housing, transportation, environment) are quite different from the power of the arts in human or social service fields (such as youth development, immigration, community safety). This connective role that arts and culture play across interrelated sectors was as exciting to uncover as its more targeted functions within each discipline. The complete meta-analysis of themes across all ten sectors is available through an interactive graphic at
Figure 2. The Role of Arts and Culture in Equitable Community Development: A Visual Analysis. ArtPlace created an interactive website and infographic to navigate the cross-cutting themes of the Translating Outcomes research. On the website (, each theme is a live link that takes readers deeper into the frameworks, case studies, and partners developed within each of the ten sectors.
A multi-colored text based-graphic in a sunburst shape, with the title “Arts and culture can…” at the top left of the image. Each ray in the sunburst lists a different role of arts and culture in equitable community development. Starting at the top of the sunburst and moving clockwise, the first section has two rays in brick-red text: Transform Spaces and Reflect Community Identity. A second section has five rays in gold text: Bridge Differences, Ensure Cultural Continuity, Cultivate Individual Agency, Facilitate Collaboration, and Advance Wellbeing.  A third section has six rays in lavender text:  Heal Community Trauma, Center People, Build Collective Power, Make Issues Compelling, Imagine New Approaches, and Generate Resources.  At the center of the sunburst are three dotted line circles describing the different colors used in the graphic. The brick-red circle is labeled “Physical,” the gold circle is labeled “Social,” and the lavender circle is labeled “Systemic.”

Additionally, ArtPlace integrated multiple disciplinary perspectives via the researchers commissioned to author each paper. Many straddled the arts and another discipline in their own scholarly practice, or were paired with co-authors who had wildly different expertise. The public health paper, Creating Healthy Communities through Cross-Sector Collaboration, for example, was collaboratively authored by twelve individuals whose expertise ranged from urban planning and neuroscience to social work and storytelling. Finally, the commissioned researchers hardly worked alone – each research paper was informed by hundreds of interviews, and was shared in draft form as the starting point for a cross-sector working group whose primary task was to refine the proposed framework based on their multidisciplinary and lived expertise. An archive of all research published through the Translating Outcomes initiative can be found online at


The Translating Outcomes research initiative was explicitly participatory, prioritizing the knowledge of practitioners and policymakers over that of researchers and academics. Understanding what practitioners perceive as barriers to sustainable arts integration in their field created a strong and unique foundation for future scholarship and inquiry; existing metrics in the housing or workforce development sector, for example, do not account for the rich, human-centered impacts of arts and cultural approaches. Though the original ambition of ArtPlace’s research was to embed the arts within existing institutional and professional systems, through facilitated dialogues and articulation of shared values we were able to identify existential challenges within each of the professional systems we explored – areas ripe for transformation and evolution through future research.

Engaging strategic non-arts partners was another key innovation within ArtPlace’s research strategy. We did not convene multidisciplinary stakeholders alone; for each working group we invited (and funded) respected intermediary organizations to co-host and co-facilitate as equal partners on the learning journey in a given sector. Later these partners co-published each of our research papers, exemplifying ArtPlace’s philosophy of leading from behind. Transportation for America, the U.S. Water Alliance, and NeighborWorks America are examples of partners who expanded the reach of ArtPlace’s research in the transportation, environment, and housing sectors, respectively (Fig. 3). The research was more likely to be useful and used if distributed within existing networks, and when trusted leaders in non-arts spaces were the ones introducing arts-based inquiry and arts-integrated approaches into the mainstream of their research, policy, and practice.
Figure 3. Cover of Transportation for America’s Creative Placemaking Field Scan (Smart Growth America/ArtPlace America, LLC). Transportation for America is an advocacy organization made up of local, regional, and state leaders focused on transportation reform. Their co-publication of this shared research, and distribution of it across their networks, is one example of an ArtPlace America partner acting as a channel or amplifier to non-arts communities of practice.
Cover includes two photographs and the title “Arts, Culture and Transportation: A Creative Placemaking Field Scan.” Top photograph: birds-eye view of an urban intersection that includes a small triangular green-space with a fountain and an adjacent bright green pedestrian area with tables and umbrellas for shade. Bottom photograph: two children walk across a roofed outdoor space whose pillars bear brightly painted murals.
Images: City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation and Flickr user kellinahandbasket -


Trained as a landscape architect, it is intuitive to me that a functioning ecology is composed of independent yet interrelated systems. While many lament the “siloing” of disciplines or professions within community development, for ArtPlace’s Research Strategies I embraced the notion that we had to integrate the arts into both the discrete policy and funding mechanisms that support community development – flawed as they may be – as well as a more forward-looking holistic or comprehensive approach to community change. Beyond the methodological advantages to segmentation described above, there was value in surfacing the long history of artists working within the existing systems of housing, transportation, public health, community safety etc., as well as the promise of the arts to fundamentally transform these systems. Taken together, combined with my deep commitment to collaborating with partners outside of the arts, we were able to engage a broad spectrum of stakeholders that included both the choir and the cynics – the latter of which I believe is fundamental to genuine, long-lasting arts-integration in any ecosystem.


Looking back across the ten-sector initiative, cross-sector meeting facilitation was a critical aspect of ArtPlace’s collaborative process that is worthy of future inquiry and exploration. Built upon insights developed by our partners at Monitor Institute (see GATHER: The Art and Science of Effective Convening ), we learned with our ten working groups how to effectively build shared purpose and aligned action; how to encourage lateral, connective thinking; and how to create ambassadors for a new arts-integrated way of working despite barriers or resistance they may face within their discipline or profession. The most powerful generative moments in our research process tended to be during the “presentation pairings” portion of our working groups, when we invited an artist or creative practitioner to share vivid examples of arts-integrated work, followed by a non-arts practitioner kicking off group dialogue in response. These and other intentionally designed conversations surfaced both variations and commonalities in language, concepts, approaches, and – perhaps most importantly – barriers and opportunities for future collaboration.
Figure 4. Immigration Working Group. Artist, immigration lawyer, and activist Carolina Rubio-MacWright kicks off ArtPlace’s Arts, Culture, and Immigration Working Group with a creative exercise. Co-hosted by ArtPlace America, Welcoming America, and the City of Asylum Pittsburgh, the two-day convening brought together artists, researchers, immigration advocates, local officials, and others to advance the scholarship and practice of arts-integrated immigration work.
Photograph taken from above, looking down toward a group of thirty people sitting at rectangular tables arranged in a circle. A woman with dark brown hair, a white jacket, and black skirt is standing in front of a screen where instructional text is projected, smiling at another member of the group who is speaking into a microphone. The room has a colorful rug in the center, big concrete columns with orange curtains hanging down from the ceiling, and stacks of bookshelves behind the group of people.
Photograph © Renee Rosensteel.
Notably, relationships sparked in ArtPlace’s working groups continued to grow long past the initial research process with ArtPlace. The U.S. Water Alliance commissioned artists from Minneapolis-based Water Bar and Public Studio to engage participants at their annual One Water Summit, and within two years created a permanent artist-in-residence position to support ongoing support of local partnerships between water utilities and cultural organizations across the country. In 2021, ArtPlace’s public health research partner at the University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine was invited to join the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vaccine Confidence and Demand Team on the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force. Shortly thereafter, the CDC Foundation released a funding opportunity for arts and cultural organizations to support communities with low COVID-19 vaccination rates, alongside the CDC’s two Field Guides for Engaging the Arts to Build COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence (Fig. 5). These are two of countless examples demonstrating that ArtPlace’s participatory and collaborative approach to building arts-integrated knowledge lives not only in the published reports that ArtPlace left behind, but in the practitioners and relationships that actively carry the ideas forward in their work.  
Figure 5. Cover of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s field guide Engaging Arts & Culture for Vaccine Confidence. This guide helps public health and health communication professionals engage in cross-sector collaborations with the arts. Lead-authored by ArtPlace’s research partner at the University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine, the guide represents a continuation and expansion of the work begun in that partnership.
Cover bears the title “Engaging Arts & Culture for Vaccine Confidence: Quick Start Guide for Building Sustainable Partnerships” and a color image reminiscent of the World War II Rosie the Riveter poster: a brown-skinned woman rolls up her sleeve to reveal a band-aid on her muscular arm. A speech bubble above her reads, “Let’s Do It.”
Image: Maddy Brookes, Amplifier. -
For additional reflections on how ArtPlace’s Translating Outcomes research is being applied by myriad community development practitioners, scholars, artists, and public officials, visit Grantmakers in the Arts' Future of the Field: Cross-Sector Creative Placemaking Series.


Kresge Foundation. (May 17, 2016). Announcing the FreshLo Menu: Food, Arts and Culture.

Strong, Prosperous, and Resilient Communities Challenge. (2021).

Animating Democracy. (May 2017). Aesthetic Perspectives.

University of Pennsylvania. (2017). School of Social Policy and Practice: Social Impact of the Arts Project.

Lindsay, Drew. (Nov 2021). You Say the Arts Don’t Matter? A 10-Year, $150 Million Venture Set Out to Prove You Wrong. Chronicle of Philanthropy, 34(2), 6-21. Accessed online at:

Hand, Jamie, Sherman, Danya, and Bullock, Megan. (2020). The Role of Arts and Culture in Equitable Community Development: A Visual Analysis. ArtPlace America.

Sonke, J., Golden, T., Francois, S., Hand, J., Chandra, A., Clemmons, L., Fakunle, D., Jackson, M.R., Magsamen, S., Rubin, V., Sams, K., Springs, S. (2019). Creating Healthy Communities through Cross-Sector Collaboration. University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine / ArtPlace America.

Flower, N.R. and Muoio, A. (June 2014). GATHER: The Art and Science of Effective Convening. Monitor Institute and The Rockefeller Foundation. Accessed online at:

CDC (2021). Engaging Arts and Culture for Vaccine Confidence: Quick Start Guide for Building Sustainable Partnerships. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed online at:

CDC (2021). Engaging Arts and Culture for Vaccine Confidence: Short Guide for Building Programs and Creative Campaigns. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed online at:

Grantmakers in the Arts. (2021-2022). Future of the Field: Cross-Sector Creative Placemaking Series.


All research published through the Translating Outcomes initiative can be downloaded at Full bibliography and citations are as follows:

Arroyo, J. (2020). Bridging Divides, Creating Community: Arts, Culture, and Immigration. ArtPlace America / Welcoming America.

Drew, C., Rodriguez, M., Ross, D., and Hand, J. (2019). Cultivating Creativity: Exploring Arts & Culture in Community Food Systems Transformation. DAISA Enterprises, LLC / ArtPlace America.

Frasz, A. and Sidford, H. (2018). Farther, Faster, Together: How Arts and Culture Can Accelerate Environmental Progress. ArtPlace America / Helicon Collaborative.

Mayorga, D., Frasz, A., and Demit, M. (2018). Advancing One Water Through Arts and Culture: A Blueprint for Action. US Water Alliance.

Poulin, J. (2020). Centering Creative Youth in Community Development: A Creative Placemaking Field Scan. Creative Generation / ArtPlace America.

Ross, C. (2016). Exploring the Ways Arts and Culture Intersect with Public Safety: Identifying Current Practice and Opportunities for Further Inquiry. Urban Institute / ArtPlace America.

Sherman, D. (2020). Building Community Wealth: The Role of Arts and Culture in Equitable Economic Development. ArtPlace America.

Sherman, D. (2016). Exploring the Ways Arts and Culture Intersects with Housing: Emerging Practices and Implications for Further Action. ArtPlace America.

Sherman, D., Hand, J., Rugg, W., Schwartzman, T., and Reynolds, M. (2020). Transforming the Workforce Development Sector through Arts & Culture: Centering People and the Social Determinants of Employment. ArtPlace America / NORC at the University of Chicago.

Sonke, J., Golden, T., Francois, S., Hand, J., Chandra, A., Clemmons, L., Fakunle, D., Jackson, M.R., Magsamen, S., Rubin, V., Sams, K., Springs, S. (2019). Creating Healthy Communities through Cross-Sector Collaboration. University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine / ArtPlace America.

Stone, B., and Nezam, M. (2017). Arts, Culture, and Transportation: A Creative Placemaking Field Scan. Smart Growth America / ArtPlace America.

Treskon, M., Esthappan, S., Okeke, C., Vásquez-Noriega, C. (2018). Creative Placemaking and Community Safety: Synthesizing Cross-Cutting Themes. Urban Institute.



The research described herein was supported by the ArtPlace America funders collaborative, which included the Barr Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Bush Foundation, the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, Knight Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the William Penn Foundation, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the Rasmuson Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, and an anonymous partner. The research was designed and led by Jamie Hand, ArtPlace America’s Director of Research Strategies, with critical support and oversight by Danya Sherman, ArtPlace’s Senior Consultant, Research Strategies. We are grateful to Monitor Institute for their early guidance on convening strategies, to the ArtPlace staff for their valuable input throughout the process, and to Megan Bullock of Studio MESH for collaborating on the culminating infographics and website. Most importantly, we are indebted to all of the individuals and organizations who partnered with ArtPlace to conduct research and author the field scans, as well as the countless artists, community leaders, organizers, educators, funders, and policymakers who participated in ArtPlace’s research as either interviewees or working group participants. The creative, community-based work led by so many of these people is both the foundation and inspiration for this research.


Between June 2015 and December 2020


Project Site

Sites and Institutes

ArtPlace America


Interdisciplinary Creative Placemaking Participatory Research Cross Sector Learning Communities Knowledge Building Network Weaving Multidisciplinary Applied Research


Creative Placemaking Arts Public Health Sustainability Climate Change Housing Transportation Urban Planning Immigration Community Wealth Building Workforce Development Youth Development Creative Youth Development Community Safety Food Systems Community Development Ecology Economic Development