A large, colorful mural faces out to the winding bike trail in Union Plaza. People lean against the bright public artwork and take pictures and bikes zoom past on the nearby trail.
On the other side of the mural’s wall, Constellation Studios hosted a community discussion Sunday specifically about places like the mural and park.
“Community is like the container for well-being,” said discussion organizer Nick Hernandez. “Place (and) emotional well-being matter.”
The discussion,“Placemaking for Wellbeing,” was about how intentional community -- the creation of creative spaces -- improves health and well-being. A diverse panel started the conversation by discussing what “placemaking” meant to them. Presenters included Mayor Chris Beutler, University of Nebraska-Lincoln philosophy graduate student Shane George, artist Karen Kunc of Constellation Studios, poet Maria Nazos, doctoral candidate Raul Palma and event organizer Nick Hernandez, who hosts a KZUM radio show called “Community Matters.”
“This was a deeply intellectual discussion,” Beutler said. “It still advances the cause of educating people as to what is meant by placemaking and how it might be perceived as the subject of a whole community endeavor.”
He says Lincoln is doing a lot of things -- both big and small -- to gather creative ideas and come up with spaces where people can gather and become inspired. He cites the Canopy Street project and Union Plaza as good examples of Lincoln’s ongoing “placemaking.”
Beutler says the connection between the arts and the well-being of a community is often lost. He said the arts are a part of economic development and health, though the link is often forgotten.
“What we want to do in order to attract people to stay in the city, live in the city and grow the city is to create a broader and deeper cultural environment that is not just a copy of some other place,” he said. “It’s an amalgamation of creative thoughts that come out of our own environment.”
Hernandez says placemaking is one of many ways where people can increase emotional well-being through interaction with their communities.
“The idea is to inspire everyone that comes to the discussion to become more involved in creating the sense of place in Lincoln in whatever way speaks to them,” said Hernandez. “Everyone has unique strengths."
Beutler and Hernandez agreed that people contributing their creative ideas has a positive impact on both personal health and the health of the city.
“If you get 1,000 businesses contributing a small idea or two, the whole face of the city can change,” Beutler said.
Constellation Studios owner Karen Kunc said the word “makers” can mean a lot of different things, but to her it means “empowerment.”
“So many people feel helpless and like they have no impact on society or their lives. That’s an incorrect notion,” she said. “If we can create more makers, that’s about empowerment. Maybe that’s what we’re trying to do here.”
“In the end, is it not a whole message to the community on the importance of creativity?” said Beutler.