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Baltimore revival requires artists

Gov. Larry Hogan and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake recently made an extraordinary announcement to commit $700 million to address urban decay in Baltimore ("Gov. Hogan announces $700M plan to target urban decay in Baltimore," Jan. 5). Much could be accomplished with such funding.

But making this initiative successful will require a new commitment to community engagement. As M.J. "Jay" Brodie pointed out in The Sun, the city and state must do extensive planning and undertake it collaboratively with residents, developers, nonprofits and the faith community.

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We recommend that artists also be included in that planning process.

A key factor in transforming Baltimore into a 21st century city will be making arts and culture a driver in our community development plans. As we're seeing in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District, artists can stabilize neighborhoods, increase public safety by generating foot traffic and spur new businesses to serve those artists and the visitors they attract.

National research continues to demonstrate the positive outcomes that occur when the arts and artists are embedded in neighborhoods and when community members are not just consulted perfunctorily or talked at, but fully engaged in the planning and implementation of economic development activities.

Across the country, there are solid examples of successful creative place-making ─ a term defined by the national funder ArtPlace America as: "[Communities] in which arts and culture play an intentional and integrated role in place-based community planning and development that is human-centric, comprehensive, and locally informed."

Baltimore artists have always been actively engaged in community-building, and that was especially important last spring. After the disturbances of April 27, musicians, dancers and painters — artists of all stripes — took to the streets to engage the community in arts-based activities as a step toward healing and recovery. This should come as no surprise; extensive research has shown the impact of the arts on fostering pro-social behavior; we know that the arts promote connectivity.

We applaud the governor and mayor for taking steps to revitalize our city. We just ask that great care be taken to ensure the resources being brought to bear will yield every success. This means true community engagement and the inclusion of Baltimore's creative community — from the start.

Jane Brown, Towson

The writer is president of the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.

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