UBC Undergraduate Research

University Creative Placemaking : Insights from UBC Students He, Susie; Hart, Liam; Sayani, Daanish; Henderson, Rachel


This report analyzes creative placemaking methods by investigating how students in formal and informal campus arts and culture produce and perform creative space at UBC. This research question was developed through a review of creative placemaking literature, and discussions with our campus partners. Based on our review of the literature, we distilled three major considerations that informed our methods. Firstly, we conceptualized creative placemaking as the production and transformation of a “sense of place” through artistic and cultural activity, rather than a specific strategy. Secondly, we determined the need for a critical approach that considered how student arts and culture participants and their activities are structured by contextual barriers. Finally, we recognized the need to understand which actors were involved in student creative placemaking, and what their roles were. To understand the experiences, attachments and narratives of students we used focus groups, sketch mapping exercises and surveys as our methods. Our participant demographic consisted of students who self-described as someone engaged with campus arts and culture, often in the role of creators, organizers or facilitators. Participants were gathered through purposive network sampling. During focus groups, students were asked questions about their experiences with arts and culture on campus. Sketch mapping took place during the focus groups. Participants were first asked to draw or brainstorm their own free map of arts and culture at UBC , and then were asked to edit and draw on an official UBC map. Survey questions were operationalized based on focus groups, and were used to reach a larger group of students. We used NVIVO to code and analyse qualitative data from the surveys, sketch maps, and focus groups. Our findings indicated that student arts and culture participants had frequent conflicts with the norms of the university and its institutions, which they viewed as largely hostile to grassroots arts and culture activities that were “not productive.” We described this phenomenon as resistant placemaking . We also found that the UBC Alma Mater Society (AMS) was an especially important overseer of student arts and culture activity. However, our findings also indicated participants’ relationships to institutions were fragmented, and that some practices had more formal support than others, which indicated institutional priorities. Based on the outcomes of our research we were able to share some recommendations. These included (1) a need for greater long-term resource provision across the university (such as priority housing for students in Bachelor of Fine Arts programs), (2) a need for greater inter-organizational cooperation, (3) more flexible resources and spaces for grassroots opportunities, (4) an increase in social media based promotion, and (5) better signage surrounding the Arts and Culture District. Finally, we contemplated potential future directions for future research. This included further opportunities for developing the methodology, the addition of evaluative research and the consideration of comparisons UBC with other universities. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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