Making places: performative arts practices in the city

  • Cara Courage

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis ‘Making places: performative arts practices in the city’ results from a research project focused on a practice of placemaking informed by performative and social practice artforms. The research is concerned with grassroots arts-led interventions in the urban realm, participated in by citizens with an aim to improve the urban lived experience and to form and cultivate connections between people, place and community. This has come to be termed in the course of the research ‘social practice placemaking’ (social practice placemaking3), a practice observed in the placemaking sector as an approach that is informed by social practice arts and an attention on these arts as a means of urban revitalization. Operating at the intersection of arts, placemaking and urban theory, and place attachment thinking, the research has used a comparative approach based on participant observation and interviews at three case study sites: Art Tunnel Smithfield, Dublin, an outdoor art gallery and garden space; The Drawing Shed, London, a social arts practice predominantly operating in housing estates in Walthamstow and Wandsworth; and Big Car, Indianapolis, an arts organisation operating across the whole of this Midwest USA city. Findings are along three themes. Firstly, of the art practice and process of social practice placemaking, revealing the collaborative social practice placemaking art experience. Secondly, of urban space and place and social practice placemaking as a means of reinterpreting both spatial and cultural activities of the city. Thirdly, of place attachment and social practice placemaking and its role in and citizenship conscientisation and the politics of social practice placemaking activity in the urban public realm. The research presents an original typology of practice for the placemaking sector and examines the practice, process and role of arts in the placemaking sector and positions social practice placemaking in the social practice arts field. Significantly, the presentation of data includes the voice of the artist and non-artist protagonists. The research has various implications for the sector. Firstly, for creative and urban professionals and communities, by revealing how social practice placemaking can deepen an understanding of the relative agencies of the various modes of arts in place. Secondly, how this practice may advance placemaking practice as a whole by its use to better understand differences and similarities between placemakings within the placemaking sector, and from this, better communicate its practices to constituent stakeholders in the creative, urban design and community sectors. Thirdly, how this practice can inform the understanding of collective progressive citizenship in the urban realm and inform generative planning practices.
Date of Award2 Mar 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton

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