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February 1, 2016

The Power of a 15-minute Public Space: A Blend of Arts, Culture and Planning in San Bernardino

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For quite sometime, the City of San Bernardino has been an embattled ground. And for quite sometime, organizations and individuals have been rising to the occasion and confront the insurmountable past, present and future woes. 

Prior to last year’s unspeakable events, various organizations representing San Bernardino’s art community for example, began a serious series of dialogues around their role and their potential to spur economic and community development. Last September, Arts Connection—the San Bernardino Arts Council’s innovative arm, organized a regional conference that explored creative placemaking, cultural planning and public art. One of the event’s breakout sessions featured renowned planner James Rojas who conducted one of his signature Place It! workshops. 

As a result of the great excitement that people who attended expressed after experiencing the brief opportunity to become urban designers through play, Arts Connection responded by organizing a follow up gathering. Planner Miguel A. Vazquez, AICP, who is a board member American Planning Association Inland Empire Section, was invited to facilitate a workshop on cultural planning.

On January 23, 2016, about 30 people congregated for a 3-hour workshop at the Garcia Center for the Arts in the city of San Bernardino.The event included an overview of the 7 mandated Elements of the General Plan and why an Arts and Culture Element can be the ideal tool to develop policies that can stimulate economic activity. The rest of the workshop took place outdoors. Attendees walked around the Center’s vicinity for about 30-minutes to observe and identify opportunities and obstacles found in the built and social environments. During the event’s last half an hour, everyone who attended had an opportunity to collaborate on building a public space. Individuals who signed up for the workshop were asked to bring random objects of little value found around their home that could be use to create a public space—things like an empty bucket that could be used as a stool or a drum, or a small plant in a pot, etc. After explaining the purpose and rules of engagement, the collective had 15 minutes to build a public space on two parking spaces right outside the Center. There were no specific directions, there was no leader, the activity unfolded organically and at the end, people experienced not only their own collective potential but also their collective creativity and their will to transform a small and unnoticed space into an outdoor living room.

The momentum built as a result of such experience, has prompted Arts Connection to continue to build the narrative towards developing a set of short and long-term activities that includes preparation of an actual Cultural Plan for San Bernardino. 

The next gathering will take place on February 21, 2016, 1 pm at the San Bernardino Community Hospital, Henderson Auditorium.

For more information about this article please contact: 
Miguel A. Vazquez, AICP at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit www.artsconnectionnetwork.org

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Alan Van Fleet

A.E. Van Fleet is an artist and graphic designer currently living and working in San Bernardino, California

Website: www.aevanfleet.com
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