Ryan Salzman is an Evangelist for Placemaking
Play • 51 min

Like so many things we're coming to grips with now in the 21st century, we're realizing that the 20th century was the anomaly. We feel like what was happening in the first 20 years of the 21st century that that was the anomaly. But it's not. The 20th century was the anomaly. And there's a temptation among policymakers to say, ‘But this is how it's always been.’ No. Wrong.

Ryan Salzman

A full transcript is available at www.democracyparadox.com.

I live in Carmel, Indiana and in May The Farmers’ Market opens. It’s in a small public space between a concert hall called The Palladium and the Booth Tarkington Theatre. The Monon Bike Trail runs alongside it and there is bike parking sponsored by the Mayor’s Youth Council. Live bands play in the center of the market. In the winter, the same space is used for an n outdoor ice skating rink surrounded by a German Christkindlmarkt. This is what Ryan Salzman describes as placemaking. 

Placemaking does not just transform public spaces. It expands them. Placemaking changes how we experience our community and establishes new landmarks. And whether we want to admit it or not, this is political. Placemaking involves the creation and distribution of public goods. 

Local governments make decisions over whether to embrace or prevent placemaking. For example, teenagers can paint a beautiful mural on a public building. Elected officials will decide whether to send a thank you or a citation. 

Ryan Salzman has studied the phenomenon of placemaking in his home of Bellevue, Kentucky and in other communities across the United States. He is a professor of political science at Northern Kentucky University and the author of Pop-Up Civics in 21st Century America: Understanding the Political Potential of Placemaking. He has experienced placemaking as an academic, an elected city councilman, and an active participant. 

Ryan’s work caught my attention because it examines local engagement through a novel lens. It considers political behavior that the participants probably don’t realize is political. It moves beyond theories of deliberative and direct democracy to consider ways everyday citizens produce meaningful action. Ryan and I have a light hearted conversation. But I don’t want to overlook the significant implications of placemaking for political science and political theory. I am excited for Ryan to share his stories and ideas. So it’s about time I introduce you to Ryan Salzman…

Key Links

Pop-Up Civics in 21st Century America: Understanding the Political Potential of Placemaking

Black Lives Matter Mural in Cincinnati, Ohio

ArtPlace America

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