New Guide Shows How to Turn Communities Around Using Local Cultural Gems

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Art and culture can be a powerful catalyst for revitalizing the economic, social, and physical conditions in communities. This handbook gives you successful strategies, best practices, and "how-to" guidance to turn cultural gems into effective community change.

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In the mid-1980s, the rural town of Lanesboro, Minnesota, was dying. Thirty-eight of the forty available downtown storefronts were vacant.

Two decades later, only two storefronts are vacant. There’s a full-time staffed theater with an eleven-month season that draws guests from five states. Visitors flock for biking, canoeing, trout angling, golfing, gallery visits, fine cuisine, and some of the best bed-and-breakfasts you’ll find. Not bad for a town of 800 people.

Lanesboro is one of a growing number of communities that have capitalized on local talent to—in this case—attract more talent and turn the economy around using cultural tourism to stimulate trade.

Until recently, professionals involved in policymaking, community planning, housing development, and economic revitalization have not deliberately or systematically looked to the sources of creativity within a community to improve that community’s welfare.

A new book from Fieldstone Alliance, The Creative Community Builder’s Handbook: How to Transform Communities Using Local Assets, Arts, and Culture provides practitioners with an understanding of how creative, culturally based projects have played catalytic roles in community change.

Key Principles

Part 1 of the guide distills research and emerging ideas behind culturally driven community development and explains key underlying principles. Readers will understand the arts’ impact on community well-being and have the rationale for engaging others.

Ten Strategies with Examples

Part 2 describes ten concrete strategies for building on a communty’s unique qualities. Each strategy is illustrated by two case studies taken from a variety of cities, small towns, and neighborhoods across the U.S.

Five Planning Steps

Part 3 lays out five steps to assessing, planning, and implementing creative community building projects. Detailed guidance, hands-on worksheets, and a hypothetical sample walk readers through the entire process.

By understanding the theoretical context (Part 1), learning from case studies (Part 2), and following the five steps (Part 3), practitioners will be able to build a more vibrant, creative, and equitable community.

About the Author

Tom Borrup has been a leader and innovator in nonprofit cultural and community development work for more than twenty-five years. His consulting, writing, and teaching explore intersections between culture, art, community building, civic engagement, urban design, town planning, and the active use of public space.

Based in Minneapolis and Miami Beach, Tom consults with foundations, nonprofits, and public agencies across the United States. He has written many articles for publications in the arts, city planning, and philanthropy. Most of these articles can be accessed at

About the Publisher

Fieldstone Alliance (formerly part of the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation) is dedicated to providing practical, easy-to-use information for nonprofit organizations and community groups.

How to Order

Order online from Fieldstone Alliance at Or, call toll-free at 1.800.274.6024.


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Rebecca Andrews