» The Creative Community Leadership Institute
What is arts-based community development?

We define arts-based community development as arts-centered activity that contributes to the sustained advancement of human dignity, health and/or productivity within a community. These include:

  • Activities that educate and inform us about ourselves and the world
  • Activities that inspire and mobilize individuals or groups
  • Activities that nurture and heal people and/or communities
  • Activities that build and improve community capacity and/or infrastructure

The word "sustainable" has roots in the Latin subtenir, meaning "to hold up" or "to support from below." We concur with many in the community-development field who feel that a thriving community must be supported primarily from within—by its members, resources and capacities, for the present and future.

Many people feel sustained community development requires collaborative effort that emphasizes a holistic, systems approach. This is because many community issues are diffuse, multidisciplinary, multiagency, multistakeholder and multisector in nature. In this context, "cross sector" refers to community development activities among and between often separately defined areas of influence and expertise such as education, public safety, human services and the arts.

—from Mapping the Field, by William Cleveland