5 Creative Placekeeping Projects We Love!

Arts and culture inspire communities, deepen neighborhood connections, and transforms lives. Whether a Pride parade in June or afterschool music sessions for teenagers, culture is an essential element of thriving public life. 

Here at ioby, we believe strongly in the possibilities of creativity, and a large part of that is due to creative placekeeping. Creative placekeeping refers to a community-driven approach to preserving and enhancing the character, history, and values of a space. Instead of focusing exclusively on adding to a neighborhood through physical development such as museums, creative placekeeping emphasizes the assets that already exist. 

The National Endowment for the Arts defines this approach as a tool “for both safeguarding and strengthening local arts and culture communities.” As rents skyrocket and demographic shifts occur in neighborhoods across the country, creative placekeeping is more important than ever to ensure cultural histories—and futures—are preserved. Below, we outline five creativeplacekeeping projects we love that have been fundraised using ioby! 

If you feel inspired to start your own creative placekeeping project, ioby has tons of resources to help. This includes our new Reimagine Communities Match program, which doubles donations for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) residents or BIPOC-led groups who crowdfund for projects that reimagine public spaces and infrastructure. Reach out to matches@ioby.org to learn more and get started!

Hike the Heights

Based in the Northern Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights, Hike the Heights is currently celebrating its nineteenth year leading creative, collaborative hikes through their neighborhood. According to the founders,  the organization was “founded on the belief that safe parks and neighborhoods are essential to community health, and that all communities, regardless of socioeconomic background, are entitled to access to safe parks and neighborhoods.” The path they follow  is called he “Giraffe Path,” an urban trail that connects over 7 parks and surrounding neighborhoods. 

Neighbors in Upper Manhattan celebrate their annual event

Walking is wonderful, you might be asking yourself, but what does that have to do with creative placekeeping? Great question! Each year, in addition to hiking, the organization collaborates with local children to create cardboard giraffes that line the path and guide participants. This engages young people, draws awareness to the campaign, and beautifies the parks without displacing people! 

Street Beats

Located in the Hyde Park neighborhood of South Los Angeles, Street Beats was a one-day event that reimagined how pedestrians interacted with the the intersection of Crenshaw Boulevard and Florence Avenue. If you’ve ever lived in Los Angeles, you know that streets—and driving more generally—are a central part of public life. Through the festival, Street Beats highlighted the importance of street safety, which was particularly important here: at the time of the festival, the intersection was ranked one of the top 20 most dangerous intersections in Los Angeles County. Creative Placekeeping was a way of drawing attention to the challenge in a positive, resident-led way. 

To do this, Street Beats brought together neighbors, youth, seniors, businesses, community organizations, and civic leaders. Together, this group not only envisioned what a fun one-day event could look like. They also envisioned what the future of the intersection might be, and how they could use pre-existing assets to bring about change. Eventually, they hoped to use arts, music, and culture to transform Crenshaw and Florence into a truly “Great Street” where all generations could thrive. 

Adé Neff, multiple time ioby project leader and organizer of Street Beats


The #ChrisCrosswalk emerged after a tragedy: in 2016, Christopher Phillips, a longtime Memphis resident, was killed by a hit-and-run driver. That same year, Memphis was ranked #9 onthe  Pedestrian Danger Index, which measures how safe it is for pedestrians to walk in medium-to-large American cities. After Phillips’ death, his friends and family wanted to do something in his honor—and ensure that such a tragedy would never happen again. 

Neighbors in Memphis help build a crosswalk in honor of Chris Phillips

This became the #ChrissCrosswalk, or an “Artistic Crosswalk”  to honor Chris’ life and address the pedestrian safety issue in the city of Memphis. They also received permission to expand the crosswalk by 200 yards and install a flashing stoplight. Today, the crosswalk is a bright, sparkling rainbow that continues to be refreshed by local residents. The most recent event even included to-go cocktails and drag performances! 

Sofa Stories

Detroit, like many American cities, struggles with “an often-invisible crisis:” the rising number of unhoused or housing insecure young people. To address this, a team of performers and activists created Sofa Stories, a participatory theatre experience that aims to amplify the stories of young Detroiters who have relied on couch surfing to survive. 

Rehearsal takes place in Detroit for a Sofa Stories theatre event

In collaboration with young people, the performance became a site-specific testimony about their experiences with homelessness. They performed on or near public spaces where they had slept, bringing people into an experience that is often ignored. In this way, the performance drew attention to a problem, its relationship to public space, and offered solutions to ensure every young person has a chance to thrive.

Remember Y(our) Connection

Remember Y(our) Connection is a community art project dedicated to environmental justice. As the organizers note, addressing the global climate crisis will require changing our culture, and therefore how we think about ourselves, each other, and our relationship to the natural world. To accomplish this, Remember Y(our) Connection hosts workshops that center around “plant wisdom”  on Lenape Land, or Queens. This is perhaps the ultimate form of placekeeping: uplifting ancestral practices and knowledges  that have always existed in a place and ensuring that knowledge is passed to future generations. 

Neighbors in Queens participate in a plant wisdom workshop

This introduction to “plant wisdom” took place through storysharing, drawing, printmaking, short documentary film, and interactive activities. In their words, “we hope to inspire community members to re-root in our interconnectedness, come together, and take more action to end the climate crisis.” 

Additional Resources:

ioby is a national crowdfunding nonprofit, but we’re much more than that. We help connect leaders (like you!) with one-on-one coaching and support to raise the money they need from their communities to make our neighborhoods safer, greener, more livable, and more fun.

Have a great idea to get good done in your neighborhood? We want to help! Share your idea with us and we can help get you started.