The Defiance City Splash Park is an amazing example of what’s called “creative placemaking.” Projects like this, citizen-driven and emerging from community needs, are becoming an important part of the artistic landscape in many rural places across the country.
“Though the movement towards creative placemaking is relatively new, the idea is not,” says Erika Willitzer, Defiance County Economic Development Executive Director. “It is part of human history to shape the places we live to reflect our values.”
The term creative placemaking was coined around 2007 and is about more than economic development or having a vibrant arts scene. It is about creatively envisioning and shaping a shared community future and recognizing that the arts can aid a community in solving problems, building relationships, and forming culture.
This localized innovation work was championed early on by ArtPlace America, a 10-year collaboration of foundations, federal agencies, and financial institutions that ended in 2020. By encouraging partnerships between artists, government, and civic groups — as well as injecting funding — they played a vital role in positioning arts and culture as a core part of equitable community planning and development.
The variety in creative placemaking is inherent in its premise: each community is unique, and so are its opportunities, dreams, resources, solutions, and strategies. To that end, practitioners who have used these tools in their communities have all developed their own independent language for what creative placemaking means to them.
And that creative placemaking lives at Defiance’s Splash Park. The splash park which officially opened in 2018 is operational from 9 am -9 pm each day. The vision of this park was made possible through public city taxpayer funds and private contributions from local businesses and residents – a true representation of how locals who come together can develop creative placemaking.