Urban art as an accelerator for inclusive communities (lessons learned from Pepines)
Santiago de los Caballeros is an economic, political, cultural, and urban metropolis with a population of 791,568. The city’s founding historic neighbourhoods of La Joya and Los Pepines are where the project has been carried out.
The project is carried out within the framework of the 2010-2020 Strategic Plan of Santiago, the Development Culture Agenda (ACD), and the Santiago Resilience Strategy.
The initiative seeks to strengthen the institutional structure of the cultural sector in Los Pepines, and thereby accelerate social inclusion with policies that promote urban art.
With new policies aimed at reviving public spaces and access to the urban landscape, the municipal government undertook the following actions: coordinated a management agreement with the Eduardo León Jiménez Cultural Centre and the Council for Development; convened local artists to present sketches of murals drawn that could be put on more than 800 walls and spaces that had been revitalized; improved the tools for conceptualizing and painting murals with training by urban mural specialists; selected an evaluation panel for the best designs, culminating in the presentation of an urban art award; and launched a mural painting program that provided materials to artists.
2. Santiago de los Caballeros and culture
This project was discussed more than 250 artists and some 50 social, business, women, and cultural centre organizations. Additionally, the municipal government formed a Culture Council for Development, with a board and an assembly of cultural and social organizations. In addition, the concept of culture promoted principles and actions around diversity.
The SDGs overlap with the Strategic Plan “Santiago 2030”. Its inclusion strategy seeks to ensure the global implementation of the Santiago Development Culture Agenda and its various initiatives. With respect to the SDGs, the most important of these are the construction of schools and training centres to improve the quality of education and programs to improve the visual and performing arts (Target 4.7), as well as the improvement of business for selling recreational goods and services (Target 8.3). In addition, the city has assumed a strategy of sustainable community tourism (Targets 8.9 and 12.b). Furthermore, the buildings and surroundings in Los Pepines have been renovated (11.4).
The project seeks to generate public-private funding aimed at improving the governance of cultural actors in order to foster innovation in sociocultural activities and stimulate creation in cultural networks and value chains.
3. Project goals and implementation
3.1. Main and specific objectives
The objective is to strengthen the institutional structure of the cultural sector in Los Pepines, and thereby accelerate social inclusion with policies that promote urban art and coordination with key stakeholders. Additionally, the aim is to draft resolutions with the municipal government and city councillors to generate public-private funding aimed at improving the governance of cultural actors. This would foster innovation in neighbourhood sociocultural activities, stimulate creation in cultural networks and value chains, as well as promote the cultural reoccupation of public spaces.
- To improve the institutional structure of entities, associations, and strategic actors in the cultural sector
- To provide tools for individual cultural creativity
- To raise the quality of cultural events, products, and services
- To improve access to solidarity funding for creative industries
- To implement a regional marketing plan for urban tourism in Santiago
- To reclaim public spaces from the region for sociocultural events
- To improve sociocultural management and events.
3.2. Project development
Main actions developed
- Urban cleaning days
- City mural competitions
- Workshops to improve the mural skills of local artists
- Awards for the best designs and sketches of urban murals
- Public-private coordination to provide work to muralists
- Forming a preliminary shortlist of projects for areas where interventions will take place
- Inclusion of 150 spots on the walls of Santiago, particularly in the Los Pepines borough
- Updating cultural and sports facilities
- Laying asphalt and strengthening of road safety
- Opening up sidewalks to promote pedestrian movement
- Support for parties, fairs, and street festivals
- Promotion of local trade, production, and consumption
- Refocusing management of the Santiago Tourism Destination Hub
- Promoting Los Pepines in 50 European and Latin American embassies and international cooperation organizations
- Strengthening the Carnival Corporation of Santiago
- Design of routes for artistic presentations, events, and cultural activities
- Guided tours for mayors and municipal authorities at the regional level
- Fourth CIDEU meeting in Santiago de los Caballeros selecting Los Pepines as a benchmark area for showcasing the links between city, culture, and the 2030 Agenda
- Digital and physical design of the mural route and characterizing the di¤erent paintings
- Expanding the scope and region for selecting locations of various sociocultural and neighbourhood events
In following the lessons learned from Santiago’s strategic regional planning, three phases were developed: diagnostics and exploration, creating intervention proposals, and implementation.
- An initial lack of understanding of the Santiago Culture Agenda as an exercise in governance, shared management, and public-private cooperation.
- Displacement of local artists via actions carried out by municipal officials.
- Weak planning of the strategic approach to cultural management that prevented the convergence of concepts, methods, and tools to combine public spaces, the ordinance on urban beautification, and mural visual arts.
- Cultural management inadequacies reflected in the fact that activism and cultural events overlapped with respect to planning, organization, and activities management.
- Too much of a political and institutional spotlight on the various actors involved in a shared vision of the city’s culture.
- Little communication between arts programs and participating organizations.
- An over 100% increase in the number of murals
- High concentration of murals in areas with a deep sense of identity, such as Los Pepines.
- Significant reduction in the number of informal landfills.
- Increased participation of visual and performing artists in the management of neighbourhood cultural management
- Enacting at least 5 municipal ordinances to address issues around urban cultural management
- Laying asphalt, street parties, and other initiatives have a multiplier e¤ect on reviving infrastructure and revitalizing business, and providing new gastronomic experiences as well as leisure activities.
The initiative must be understood within its context at a crossroads where a new local government has come into the municipal leadership, and taken on a significant crisis within the city's overall waste management system, which massively increased the presence of informal garbage dumps throughout the city.
4.1. Direct impact
- Increasing number of visits by representatives from international cooperation agencies and diplomatic headquarters
- Quantity and quality of murals
- More replication of visiting tours of the founding historic centre for Joya and Baracoa
- Re-established contact with the diaspora of former residents of Los Pepines
- Growing sense of community pride for residents
- Helped make the city more Instagrammable as a destination for sustainable community tourism.
- Increased number of arrangements with hoteliers, tour operators, agencies, and tour guides
- Increased options for gastronomy and drinks .
The evaluation of the project will be based on the methodology of “Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices”. This uses qualitative and quantitative techniques to assess the relationship between quality, content, and time based on the certification system for the quality of regional strategic planning. In particular, the various methodological inputs of this system and its management and operation flowchart will be used.
The cost-benefit ratio in efficient resource management, the rate of increase for commercial business activity, and other community activation indicators are also vital markers.
4.3. Key factors
The initiative must be understood within its context at a crossroads where a new local government has come into the municipal leadership, and taken on a significant crisis with the city’s overall waste management system, which massively increased the presence of informal garbage dumps throughout the city. Another determining, favourable factor is the approval of Culture Agenda for Development.
The City Council and the Development Council are designing a system for monitoring and follow-up that will establish strengths, seize new opportunities, overcome weaknesses, and contain threats. The project is considered a quick victory in a neighbourhood where the scale of intervention will be increased to levels similar to other territories such as La Joya, Pueblo Nuevo, and Baracoa.
5. Further information
Santiago de los Caballeros was a candidate for the fourth UCLG Mexico City – Culture 21 International Award (November 2019 – May de2020). The jury for the award drew up its final report in June of 2020, and requested that the UCLG Committee on Culture promote this project as one of the good practices implemented under Agenda 21 for culture.
This article was written by Reynaldo Peguero, Director of the Strategic Plan for Regional Development for Santiago, Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic.
Contact: rpeguero.pes2020 (at) gmail.com