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Public Life Training Intensive designed to grow placemaking community

The closing of the ICT Pop Up Park, as reported in The Wichita Eagle in August, came as a shock to some. Over the past five years, the space was a destination for many - whether it be downtown workers, Final Friday art crawlers, foodies and/or high school music junkies. Yet the space itself had become status quo; programming was not reaching its full potential, fewer people were populating the space and the value of keeping a place better than you left it wasn’t a high priority for some visitors.

Discussions between the partners of the original effort - Bokeh Development, Downtown Wichita and the Wichita Community Foundation (WCF) - resulted in a new direction for the space that many had come to appreciate and recognize as one of downtown's greatest public assets. We thought: What if a city’s creative spirit not only guided the design, but also crowdsourced the operations, the curation, and the care of its public spaces? 

"We want to raise the bar for public space and public life standards in Wichita," said WCF Director of Strategic Initiatives Courtney Bengtson. "The land that the Pop Up Park resided on can - and should be - more than a static amenity. WCF continues to empower individuals in our community to have opportunities through our organization that they may not get otherwise. Our partners at Knight Foundation were helpful in thinking of different ways to re-energize the space using the unique local talent we have in our city."

To build our community muscle in placemaking, 15 Wichitans (listed below) dedicated the first two weeks of October 2020 to an immersive experience that included a combination of presentations, participant homework, on-site fieldwork and prototype concept generation. WCF partnered with the globally-recognized architecture firm, Gehl to create and execute the Public Life Training Intensive Fellowship. 

  • Jose Cardona
  • Emily Christensen
  • Maggie Gilmore
  • Micala Gingrich-Gaylord
  • Elizabeth Gomes
  • Anthony Joiner
  • Doug Horacio Holguin Lynn
  • Xan Mattek
  • Meghan Miller
  • Elizabeth Montes
  • Irma Puskarevic
  • Janine Shinn
  • Mary Alexis Wirths
  • Hugo Zelada

"The program creates capacity within our entire city to focus on designing public space for, and with, people," said Bengtson.

Beginning in November, a subset of the Public Life Intensive Fellows will work with Gehl to utilize the Pop Up Park site as a lab to test creative activation, as well as a new community-based operation approach.


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