Date of Award


Document Type

Terminal Project

Degree Name

Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)


Landscape Architecture


Robert Hewitt

Committee Member

Hala Nassar


Arts and artists benefit community health. Unfortunately there are many challenges in maintaining artists in many communities. Communities with wealth in culture and arts activities frequently experience gentrification, rapid cultural change, and serious social challenges. While national quantitative studies vary in their ability to validate this trend, on a local level this continues to be the experience of many artists in cultural districts including those in North Davidson Arts District in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The planning and design process in arts communities has a long way to come in achieving democracy in community planning, goal setting and design. In Randolph Hester’s book, Design for Ecological Democracy, he applies ecological principles in understanding urban social systems. He writes about the importance of creating settings for social mutualism in city design. The concept of social mutualism states that groups that are typically in opposition can and will come together for mutual benefit in nature and in society. This coming together is particularly important in artist communities where development and economic interest can be characteristically high creating the stage for cultural loss and gentrification.

This terminal project makes a case for incorporation of core values in the design process of artist centered communities, including democracy, social mutualism, informal participation, sustainability and grassroots engagement. These values ultimately lead to development of an artist centered initiative in North Davidson Arts District, Gentrify Me art exhibit. Gentrify Me is an artistic symposium held in Charlotte, NC in April of 2009 aimed at creating dialogue, exchange and a “setting of social mutualism” (Hester 2006,60) among artists, entrepreneurs, development, and city planners, and bringing greater awareness to gentrification in arts districts.

Additional Files

Engaging the Grassroots.pdf (5797 kB)
Engaging the Grassroots

finalcatalogue.pdf (17823 kB)
Final Catalogue