Placemaking Draws Connection Between Arts and Community Development

How did you become involved in the Downtown Placemaking program?

I have always been drawn to artists and creative types, and while traveling have observed how in many cities the initial impetus for neighborhood revitalization and vibrant districts begins with artists (and Gay people) moving into an area.  

Parklet Carolers in Downtown Appleton


A few years back I also co-authored a study of artists and craftspersons in northwest Wisconsin that helped me draw the connection between arts, placemaking and community development in a big way. We found that even in more rural areas these people were contributing over 20M per year to the regional economy. They were also contributing to local and regional tourism development, participating in festivals and art shows, and helping create destinations where both residents and visitors to an area would congregate and mingle.

Enjoying the new parklet on College Avenue

Having moved to Appleton 5 years ago I was eager to get involved with people and groups that are rolling up their sleeves and doing projects that create a stronger sense of community through the arts.  I’m honored to have had the opportunity to become involved in ADI’s creative placemaking initiative over the past several months, and look forward to helping organize and activate the creative spaces this group is helping bring to life!

by Andrew Dane
Appleton Downtown Placemaker

Willis of Wisconsin committed to growing the creative economy in Appleton!

Companies understand that creative placemaking contributes to a happier, more engaged workforce. That’s why they support the work of the Creative Downtown Committee. We are thrilled to recognize Willis of Wisconsin as our first Corporate Placemaker for 2015!


Their grant of $1,000 will bring new public art to downtown for the entire community to enjoy. At the same time they are helping to make Downtown Appleton a more fun, creative place, they are also making the Fox Cities a more attractive destination for existing and future employees to live, work and play. Not only is it good business, it’s the right thing to do.

Creative placemaking turns ordinary public spaces into engaging community places. It brings people together and inspires connections in a way that makes people want to stick around and come back again some day. This contributes to loyal employees for local businesses and return visitors to our city.

Josh Dukelow
Chair Creative Downtown Committee

Downtown Placemakers Campaign Growing with Community Support

IScreen Shot 2015-05-29 at 10.07.26 AMn April, we officially announced our Downtown Placemakers campaign, and in just a month we hit a major milestone: we’ve already raised more than $1,000!

Hard-working staff, dedicated volunteers, unique businesses, and a supportive community are among the vital ingredients for this early success. But the essential element is the donors! The individual men and women who took action to make a donation and support our work to make Downtown Appleton a fun, dynamic place.

In the months ahead you will see the fruits of this effort. Inspiring events like Art on the Town are becoming more engaging; underused spaces will be brought to life; the cityscape will blossom with color. This new energy will make our city center a more enjoyable place to live, work, and play, for both residents and visitors.

Do you want to be part of making Downtown Appleton #OneGreatPlace too? Then become a placemaker! Send your tax-deductible donation of $25 or more to Creative Downtown Appleton Inc (116 N Appleton St 54912) or call 920-954-9112. Your gift will help support creative placemaking in the heart of your community.

Please visit our site for the creative placemaking brochure.

Thank you!!

2015 Dreamers and Doers Award – Will and Pam Weider

2015 Dreamers and Doers Award

Presented to a business, group or individual that has significantly enhanced, for years to come, the physical and/or economic landscape of the downtown. This award is about vision … and the ability to turn vision into reality.

When an iconic building in downtown lost its long time business tenant in 2009, the community watched with great anticipation and after 5 years sitting empty this visionary couple came forward to purchase the building.
This long time Appleton couple had a dream to retire in downtown Chicago, but then that plan changed when they started to see Appleton and Downtown evolve, grow and embrace creative economy. “We like the direction Downtown is going and we want to be a part of it here in Downtown Appleton  – but we want to do it our way!

What happened next was truly visionary! Their dream for an urban loft became reality when this couple built their dream retirement home on the second floor of the old Conkey’s Building. The complete renovation and transformation of this building upstairs and down is remarkable! With the addition of a garage, an elevator, reclaimed floors and the preservation of a ghost sign this urban home is inviting, chic and probably has the best view for all of the parades!


We applaud Will and Pam Weider for their vision, their determination and investment in reviving the old Conkey’s building in Downtown Appleton into something extraordinary.   

Creative Placemaking in Downtown Appleton

Have you ever traveled to a new city and fallen in love? Not with a beautiful stranger, but with the place itself? It might be hard to pinpoint exactly what makes it so attractive, but that feeling is what motivates an emerging trend called “creative placemaking.”

IMG_2344-croppedCreative placemaking generally refers to efforts to shape the built environment in ways that engage users. It is collaborative, inclusive, and focused on bringing people together and bringing them back again. Much of creative placemaking focuses on adding and integrating art into shared spaces. Murals and sculptures are part of this, but it can also include the design of a bench or the colors of a crosswalk. Thinking creatively about how a plaza or bridge are designed can turn what was a simple space into a destination place.

In our own community, Houdini Plaza offers an example of creative placemaking in practice. Prior to renovation, the plaza had some grass, a sculpture, and pavers, but not much else. Things happened there, but rarely was it a destination itself.  Through vision and investment of resources, the City of Appleton turned the plaza into a place people want to use. A water feature, trees, seating, and a stage all give the space a new usefulness that draws visitors. It is a great concert venue and also a nice spot to relax in the sunshine.

After the renovations were complete, the thoughtful addition of some colorful chairs made the place even more engaging. These seats can be moved and rearranged so people can make the space what they want it to be. This interactive element encourages users to linger a little longer.

But great places are so much more than cool benches and interesting art. Spontaneous events (like the “pop up dinner” that has happened in Houdini Plaza) and live music give people another reason to stop and stay awhile. Well-designed places can also tie distinct areas together, meaning people can park and easily walk from one area to the next.

Creative placemaking doesn’t have to be expensive or cost any money at all! Events like “Art on the Town” bring creative elements to downtown, and help to boost economic activity for the artists who participate and the businesses that host them.

Creative placemaking offers the Fox Cities an affordable way to involve the many artistic people who call the area home. The vibrant energy that creative placemaking adds helps distinguish the Fox Cities from other similar communities in the Midwest, which helps attract and retain workers who will then attract and retain businesses. And it makes the spaces we share more fun!

If you have ideas for how to make your city a more creative and attractive place, share them with the Creative Placemaking Team at Appleton Downtown Inc. We want to help you make them a reality!

by Josh Dukelow