Two person painting a wall

Art creates a sense of belonging, and has the power to transform places


Sustainable and just cities promote cultural, artistic and creative activities. Artistic practices help overcome verbal and emotional barriers, and can build shared values such as justice and belonging. The arts play a crucial role in political expression and education, in that they enable much needed social dialogue within and between communities. From there, people can make use of this exchange of local knowledge to promote visions for sustainable and just cities. Moreover, a sense of belonging and togetherness created in urban cultural and historic areas helps empower communities for a just transition.

Related keys: #Accessibility  #Diversity  #Knowledge 

Art and culture have an important role in supporting a sustainable and just transition in cities. One potential pathway is to achieve a tangible or physical urban transformation by performing an inclusive and environmentally-friendly process of urban development through cultural solutions.  Moreover, art can also be a tool to connect with traditionally excluded communities in a more creative manner, promoting collective thinking and raising awareness about justice and sustainability issues via approaches such as Culture for Empowerment

Art boosts creativity, and as such, it can be a powerful tool for visualizing an innovative desired shared future, enabling the governance arrangement of “Creating a common vision for change” (check out the explanatory video here). Similarly, culture is often called the “glue” that holds people together, and therefore, intercultural dialogue can contribute to the governance arrangement of “Building bridges between separate stakeholder groups” (check out the explanatory video, here). 

Uneven and exclusionary urban intensification and regeneration (see video here) refers to the ways in which new urban developments might force trade-offs between the social and environmental goals of urban sustainability projects. These processes have been very widespread in the historic city centres. Undertaking regeneration projects that protect cultural and artistic values in their core, such as adaptive reuse of cultural heritage, not only reduces environmental impact (by saving energy and waste) but it also enhances a sense of belonging and social inclusion, respecting the heritage communities around it. 

  • Art and creativity play an important role in bringing people together and envisioning a more sustainable and just future.
  • Though music, drawing, sculpture, theatre and more, artists can influence and help people understand and engage with issues around sustainability and justice.
  • Art should not be used only through its creative potential and emotional aspects, but also as a pedagogical tool to bridge the gap between expert and non-expert citizens. Art can help conceptualise ideas that might otherwise be hard to communicate.   

Inspirational example

Greening city heritage, Bologna

The City of Bologna has transformed Piazza Rossini, one of the squares in the historic city centre, into a permanent pedestrian area, leaving behind its former use as a parking lot. 

This initiative was powered by the Municipality of Bologna, the University of Bologna and Fondazione Innovazione Urbana. The initial idea of greening Piazza Rossini in an effort to restore social and cultural values of the square emerged during the participatory laboratory “U-Lab,” attended by more than 250 participants in 2018. Based on this lab, a group of university students designed the project and a green carpet was temporarily installed during the summer of 2020. With an average daily presence of 27.000 visitors, the area serves as a gathering space. In view of the positive environmental and social impact, the municipality decided to grant a pedestrian use for Piazza Rossini.       

More information available here and here.

A pedestrian green space at Piazza Rossini

Avenues for action

You might be wondering, what everyday actions can I take to put all this theory into practice? Take a look at the avenues for action, below, for some practical guidance.

Get inspired!

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