Too often, experts say, arts and culture is considered little more than an add-on to community development projects. Think a sculpture plopped in the middle of a green space or a mural plastered on a wall, months or years after a project is complete. 

But what if arts and culture were baked into community planning process, helping shape the project from the outset? 

That question will be explored in the coming months, as artists, planners, and local government officials from across metro Atlanta convene for an innovative community development workshop. The effort, called ALMA Workshop, is a part of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Arts Leaders of Metro Atlanta (ALMA) program, which each year aims to develop leaders across the region’s arts, planning, and local government communities. 

With this year’s class going virtual amid the pandemic, ALMA leaders decided to re-imagine the program to take advantage of the change. 

Registration is now open for ALMA Workshop, which runs from March through May. Participants will roll up their sleeves and work on real-world planning projects and present their final efforts in a juried design review. (The application deadline is Jan. 29). 

Infusing the community planning process with diverse perspectives and creative energy will help communities better tackle their challenges in a way that improves quality of life for all residents,” said Josh Phillipson, Principal of Arts, Culture, and Creative Placemaking at ARC. 

“The ALMA Workshop will provide the opportunity for a diverse group of metro Atlanta leaders to tackle real-world community planning efforts through an arts & culture lens. 

Orientation sessions will be held on Jan. 14 and Jan. 20 to provide an opportunity to learn more about what the ALMA 2021 Workshop will cover.

What’s Next ATL, produced by the Atlanta Regional Commission, is a community resource that explores how metro Atlanta is growing and changing, and how the region is addressing its most pressing challenges.