Research Spatial Interventions

Upcoming Uptown Greenville Design Intervention project at 423 Evans: Design in Review

Over the last year, I’ve worked with partner, Pitt County Arts Council (PCAC) to plan and design an arts-based community project for the community of Uptown Greenville. The project is my first large-scale design intervention / installation project since starting at ECU and moving to Eastern North Carolina and was made possible by the Engagement and Outreach Scholars Academy (EOSA) at ECU.

The purpose of the project is to attempt to improve and expand on the economic, cultural, and community development of Uptown Greenville by contributing to the community’s sense of place through activity-programming, cultural-historical context, and social-spatial interactions, with a specific focus on contributing to the community narrative.

The project employs a citizen-inclusive model, which emphasizes participation of community stakeholders throughout the process. This particular model emphasizes the community’s ability/responsibility to actively participate in the making (implementation phase) of the design intervention.

Stakeholders included a diverse group of Uptown Greenville community members, “a reflection of the community,” including local residents, ECU students, business owners, employers/employees, district city partners, and nearby friends and visitors of Uptown.

In November, we conducted a focus group with the participants where design concepts were shared to gauge interest and initiate feedback for the new design intervention project for Uptown.

My research team and I reviewed the data from the focus group and wrote a full report with insights and recommendations, which was presented to PCAC in February. 

Some major themes that emerged from the focus group analysis included:

Long lasting impact:
The design intervention should evolve with the community. 

Keep it Interactive:
The design intervention should encourage participation among visitors. 

Fun for all ages and focus on our city.

The main recommendations for moving forward with the design direction included: 

  • create the interactive mural. #hashtag-able. Fun. Playful. Youthful. 
  • keep the physical, tactile components. interactive components / photo opportunities. Swings.  
  • ensure community content creation. Avoid a one-time experience.
  • focus on the city narrative. 
  • participatory experience. paint by number approach, on-site – movable mural panels (all components will be movable).

The final design direction is in review and participants are standing by for more details on when implementation can begin.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing precautions, the project implementation has been delayed. We are hoping the project will be able to continue this fall with a tentative implementation plan scheduled to coincide with the “First Friday” event in September.

September 4, 5-8pm (First Friday event)
September 5, 9-4pm
September 6, 9-4pm

More details about this project will be posted as further developments are made.

This research considers and addresses how a design intervention (arts-based community project) can improve and/or expand on the economic, cultural, and community development of Uptown Greenville by contributing to the community’s sense of place through the addition of activity-programming, cultural-historical context, social-spatial interactions, etc. with a specific focus on contributing to the community narrative.

Interactive & Motion Research

Motion Design in the Context of Place, a new publication in the book, The Theory & Practice of Motion Design Critical Perspectives and Professional Practice

I am very excited to announce that the chapter, Motion Design in the Context of Place, was published in the book, The Theory and Practice of Motion Design: Critical Perspectives and Professional Practice, 1st Edition, edited by R. Brian Stone and Leah Wahlin, this past summer, July 2018. This chapter was completed in collaboration with colleague, Cotter Christian, Interior Design professor at Parsons, The New School. 

Click here for more details on the book.

The chapter addresses how motion design and place can reshape the way the other is perceived, generating meaning that creates more dynamic experiences between people and their environment.

When motion design is an integrated or applied part of a building, or another spatial environment—interior, exterior, or other, it becomes part of the built environment, adding meaning and potentially, creating a stronger sense of place. Simultaneously, the context of place—the environment, the activity, the interactions that take place within a space become part of the motion work itself. 

This chapter introduces a range of motion design projects to show the versatility of work and methods used in various contexts. Some of the examples discussed include the commercial branding applications of the Union Square Capital One Building in NY, the breath-taking artistic installation projections of URBANSCREEN’s Lighting the Sails on The Sydney Opera House, the dynamic information graphics of the LEED Dynamic Plaque Display, and the interactive generative data visualizations of ESI DESIGN’s Color Play in Terrell Place, DC.


Place-based workshop captures essence of local neighborhood discussions during the Art and Place Conference in Memphis

Like many cities that struggle with under-developed, neglected neighborhoods, Memphis has experienced an influx of artistic interventions focused on community renewal in many different forms and applications.

Public art is a popular form of artistic intervention and can range in style, form, and expertise. It is often executed with objectives for improving livability in neighborhoods and serving as a catalyst for greater change. Community engagement is a key role in identifying, defining, and implementing artistic interventions in local areas, especially those with limited budgets.

This spring, I was invited to plan and participate in a local conference, hosted by Rhodes College, called Art & Place. The conference discussed principles of creative placemaking with plenary speaker, Maria Rosario Jackson. Additionally, three place-based sessions offered panel discussions specific to three neighborhoods: Crosstown, the Edge District, and Orange Mound.

I ran a workshop through the place-based sessions that isolated and captured ideas from the community discussions and mapped them into thought maps. Each participant was provided with a toolkit for writing and drawing ideas for urban interventions, specific to their neighborhood. A student team helped by collecting and mapping thoughts onto the board. The final artifact was a participatory thought map (4’x8′).


What exactly is Creative Placemaking?

Schneekloth and Shibley, authors of Placemaking: The Art and Practice of Building Communities (1995), discuss a transformation in the field of placemaking in the late 20th century that shifts from isolated community development methods to community-inclusive design methods that incorporate the roles of citizens with the professional placemakers–architect, designers, urban planners–in the creative process. 

This type of partnership may be more sustainable for community development, in that it may better align with the citizen’s needs or benefit over the strategic, often financial goals of development agencies, which may or may not align with the locale, inflicting separation and disconnection from the community.

Kent and Nikitin (2011) argue:

They argue that “[p]rojects—whether public art, public parks, or public transportation—designed without the community in mind have provoked fierce criticism by host communities. That criticism is based on, among other things, a lack of trust in the motives of the professionals involved, who often serve something other than the public good and whose priorities are often different from those of the community” (17).

This category, identified as “creative placemaking,” is a term introduced by Rocco Landesman, the chair of the National Endowments for the Arts (NEA), who recognized that “cities and towns [use] the arts to help shape their social, physical, and economic characters” (Schupbach and Ivengar 2012). It is a shared process between stakeholders of the community, including citizens, governments, and agencies working in partnership to try and create meaningful, unique places.

Markusen and Gadwa (2010) define creative placemaking as:

partnerships with the public, private, non-profit, and community sectors to strategically shape the […] characteristics of a place around arts and cultural activities. Creative placemaking animates public and private spaces, rejuvenates structures and streetscapes, improves local business viability and public safety, and brings diverse people together to celebrate, inspire, and be inspired. […] It is about cross-sector partnerships that leverage the power of art to transform and advance our neighborhoods, initiated by an entrepreneur or entrepreneurial team (3).

More information about applying for grants for creative placemaking projects:

Creative placemaking can require large amounts of federal funding. Our Town is “the federal government’s signature investment in creative placemaking which makes grants to partnerships among arts and design organizations and local governments to increase community livability through the arts” (Schupbach and Ivengar 2012). Gadwa Nicodemus (2013) tells us that “the top funders including the NEA and ArtPlace (a collaboration between thirteen foundations and six banks) [having] made a combined 232 grants in all 50 states, for an investment total of $41.6 million” (2).

According to the NEA website (, projects are reviewed in three major categories: arts engagement projects, cultural planning and design projects, and projects in non-metro and tribal communities and evaluated based on four key components: strengthening the infrastructure that supports artists and arts organizations; increasing community attachment; improving quality of life; and/or driving local economies. (Schupbach and Ivengar 2012).