Starting this fall, students at the University of Maryland will have the opportunity to craft murals, public artworks and other projects as part of this university’s new creative placemaking minor.

After being in the works for five years, the creative placemaking minor was created by this university’s architecture, planning and preservation school and the arts and humanities college after a proposal for the program was approved in spring 2022. The minor is part of the university’s Arts for All initiative, which partners the arts with other disciplines to promote campus-wide creativity and innovation.

Creative placemaking is the practice of using arts, culture and creativity to support “vibrant and sustainable” communities. Projects may include mural design, storytelling, pop-up installations, public events and performance, according to this university’s art department.

“It kind of is a jamming between arts and culture and what we call placemaking, or reference keeping,” said Ronit Eisenbach, an architecture professor and the director of this university’s new creative placemaking minor.

Through their work in this minor, students will have the opportunity to work with a community on issues such as climate change, equitable development and green spaces, Eisenbach said. Creative placemaking is not just working on an art or architecture project. It is sparking conversations, telling the story of a place or making a place more safe, accessible and business-friendly, Eisenbach said.

[UMD education college proposes post-master’s certificate to train PGCPS counselors]

Examples of creative placemaking are already scattered throughout Prince George’s County. The stained sewage drains along Terrapin Row near the University of Maryland’s campus are home to brightly painted murals with slogans that read “Only Rain Down The Drain.” Students painted the murals as part of an art and community class in 2022.

Students in an advanced studio painting class also created a mural in the backyard of The Hall CP, a restaurant in College Park, in 2022.

“Having a mural or having a sculpture or some sort of artistic component is really something that people are looking for now,” said College Park arts exchange director Melissa Sites. “It increases public value, just in the same way that being an arts district is very economically advantageous to play.”

Public facing artworks such as the ones near Terrapin Row and at The Hall are just a few examples of what students will look to build on in the full minor program next fall. These projects show the potential for public works of art in the city, Sites said.

Creative placemaking will make College Park seem more than just a college town and allow it to become a national example of how creativity and artwork can improve communities, said College Park economic development manager Michael Williams.

“The placemaking efforts will help us distinguish and help us characterize our different communities and our assets,” Williams said.

[College Park restorative justice commission discusses goals, progress in one-year update]

Creative placemaking will have an architecture and spatial practice track, as well as an art and community track. It will accept up to 20 students from the architecture and studio art programs and students in other disciplines if space allows, Eisenbach said. The architecture, planning and preservation school and the art department will be working to create additional tracks for other disciplines within the creative placemaking program next year, Eisenbach said.

In the architecture and spatial practice track, students will work on projects that create a better sense of community within greater College Park and beyond.

One project that serves as an example of opportunities for students in this area was the Takoma Langley crossroads project that students in Eisenbach’s creative placemaking studio completed in spring 2022. In this initiative, students developed projects to celebrate Takoma Langley’s diverse business area and promote a pedestrian-friendly community ahead of the area’s new Purple Line stop.

Senior architecture major Adriana Rosas, who was involved with the Takoma Langley crossroads project, is the first student to obtain the minor at this university because she had taken the creative placemaking studio in 2022 and had another year to fulfill the minor.

“To be part of the creative placemaking is just really trying to connect and find a vision for a place and trying to solve issues in very distinct ways,” Rosas said.