Artistic and Curatorial Power in Cities’ Historic Spaces

This article explores how public spaces can be transformed through creative uses, and bottom-up approaches involving community members, to bring about vitality in town centres. It explores three case studies in Athens (Greece), Salerno (Italy) and Sunderland (England). This resource can be of use for place managers and other key stakeholders looking at innovative ways of doing high street regeneration, with a focus on historic buildings and spaces.

Date added 4 November 2021
Last updated 5 November 2021

In Italy, an abandoned ecclesiastical space in Salerno has been transformed into a creative lab where local artists create performances and installations, making this space key in the culture-led regeneration process. Furthermore, other unused spaces across the city have become places of intervention through lighting projects, as a form of ‘bringing light’ to neglected spaces.

In Greece, light installations illuminate the abandoned Pittaki street in Athens. This project was created with members of the community generating dialogue about the characteristics of the place and dealing with the decaying space in a creative way. The light installations were very relevant to this place, as this street was dominated by antique light sellers. This street also became a temporary workshop to help and teach repair light fixtures.

In England, the ‘Historic High Streets’ Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) in Sunderland, was deprived and in decay as historic buildings had become vacant and unused. These spaces have been transformed into spaces for multiple creative uses, such as lectures and exhibitions about the area, a community mural, and a pop-up café.

Although this resource explains how these are three isolated case-studies in different geographical regions, they all have common characteristics that can inform similar practices elsewhere. All of these projects brought about community involvement and participatory place making, resulting in a redistribution of power; they all involved crowdsourcing for resources, materials, and expertise; they fostered a feeling of pride and belonging in the community; and they were successful strategies against the decay of important historic spaces.