Placemaking As A Space To Process Trauma

Earlier this month, CityLab had an interesting article on the subject of trauma informed placemaking. For the most part, the article focuses on artistic projects which have given communities a place to heal after traumatic events, but also policy and practice enacted by municipal governments to avoid compounding the trauma of those displaced by natural disasters.

One of the art projects, Temple of Time, was erected after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida to provide the community with a place they could access 24/7 to process their grief and trauma. I would encourage people to check out the article to view the images because describing it as a 40 foot tall plywood structure doesn’t do justice to the elaborate scrollwork on what appears to be a Thai Buddhist temple inspired pavilion.

The other project discussed in the article inadvertently evolved into a larger placemaking effort than initially intended. Providence, RI had a building in one of their parks they didn’t know what to do with and had the idea to offer the space as affordable housing for artists.

Together they issued a call for the city’s first “Park-ists in Residence” to steward the property and carry out public engagement, working to reanimate the site and reimagine its relationship with the surrounding neighborhood.


Haus of Glitter had originally intended to use the space to host intimate indoor gallery shows, living-room concerts and salon events. “But with Covid, we found ourselves where people in the community were reaching out for support and asking for help and care during this crisis,” says Matt Garza, a founding member of Haus of Glitter. “And so we threw our old plans out the window.”

Haus of Glitter is the artist collective which became the “Park-ists in Residence” and ultimately ended up becoming a safe space for many groups, offering classes, setting up a community garden, hosting numerous performances, including an immersive opera based on the life of the house’s original inhabitant, “a short-lived naval commander and Revolutionary War figure…dismissed from the Navy, censured by Congress, and deeply complicit in the transatlantic slavery trade.”

The article notes that Haus of Glitter has ended their residence but seeks to replicate their model in other cities. The city of Providence apparently won’t be continuing the residency program, though there are efforts to continue activities at the park space and homestead. However, the project has had an impact on the city:

…the experience has given the city’s arts and culture department, and the wider planning department it sits within, a new frame for thinking about the intersection of place and trauma. And it offers a moving example for policymakers in other cities looking for ways to provide healing spaces for residents.

“Every city department touched this project in some way because of how ambitious and how long the residency was” says Micah Salkind, a program manager with the city’s arts department…

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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