about the project

For rural communities gripped with capacity shortages, innovation and collaboration are critical for addressing inequities and the impacts of climate change. Led by ATLAS Lab, the Mariposa County Creative Placemaking Strategy is a transformational engagement effort, applying innovative practices to identify and prototype solutions to pressing cultural and ecological issues. In addition to a visionary, implementable community plan, the project co-created art that challenged assumptions about local identity; amplified marginalized community voices; cultivated lasting partnerships; and supported a resilient landscape. It provides a model for solving local ecological and cultural crises relevant to communities of all sizes.

The project applied a range of communication and engagement techniques to solicit input on and demonstrate solutions to the community’s deep-seated cultural imbalances and ecological threats. These include:

  • Method 1: #This Must be the Place, a crowd-sourced photography project that prompted residents to share photos of the places and events that make the community special;
  • Method 2: Ah-Lo-Mah’, an installation of traditional baskets made by contemporary Indigenous weavers from the Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation (SSMN). The piece, co-created through intergenerational work sessions among tribal members, references the SSMN’s traditional ecological knowledge and showcases tribal artistry. The work also provided access to an online survey where participants could share insights on priorities for future creative placemaking investments; and
  • Method 3: Seed Share, an installation that interprets the ecosystem services of healthy riparian landscapes, and provides free packets of native seeds to support DIY native revegetation efforts. Like Ah-Lo-Mah’, this piece also enabled participation in an online survey that collected formal input on wider creative placemaking policy.

In addition to activating the community’s physical and digital environments with stimulating creative placemaking works, the project’s methods catalyzed outcomes with deep and lasting impacts. These engagement and communication methods facilitated a rich and productive dialogue with the community, resulting in a high-capacity coalition of local implementers with a mandate and the resources to make tangible improvements to Mariposa County and its landscapes. These include:

  • Outcome 1: Adoption of the Mariposa County Creative Placemaking Strategy (CPS), a community planning document that distills the outcomes of the dialogues facilitated through #This Must Be the Place, Ah-Lo-Mah’, and Seed Share into a vision, series of goals, and priorities for landscape-oriented creative placemaking projects throughout the County. Among these are six projects, seven programs, and three policies for centering native ecology as the backbone of local identity; 
  • Outcome 2: $1M grant from the Department of Transportation to install gateway elements, including highway art and large-scale murals, that align with the vision and goals of the CPS; and
  • Outcome 3: Nearly $1M from the Wildlife Conservation Board and Department of Conservation to restore Mariposa Creek in collaboration with the SSMN. Restoration activities, entailing invasive species removal and revegetation with native culturally resonant species, center Indigenous traditional ecological practices like cultural burning.