Creative Placemaker

Jessica Vega

Jessica Vega

Community Development

Jessica Vega, wants to make a difference in the real world. That's why it's so important that she, like many students in the community development program, has taken on real projects as part of her coursework.

Last year as a class project in an organizational leadership course, she and two other students worked with the Central Falls City Council and Mayor's Office to improve communications between the two and to make the council more accessible to its residents.

And now, she’s at it again. This time she’s taking on a project that originated in one of her courses and is running with it on her own.

It’s called Creative Placemaking and it brings the arts into different sections of the cities. A good example of this is Providence WaterFire or the art filled neighborhood of Wynwood in Miami, Vega says.

For her project, Vega is exploring how to bring that to Central Falls. Her main hope is to create something that attracts people to Central Falls and serves as an anchor to keep people there, she says.

Vega came up with the project during her project design, implementation & evaluation course. In the course, they looked up real steps – such as potential funders, laws and stakeholders – they could use to bring their ideas from concepts to reality. They even started initial steps in implementation, such as reaching out to communities.

That experience and building of real-world knowledge helps community development students gain the key skills they need to address the challenges of today’s urban and rural neighborhoods and communities.

“Right now, I am in the beginning stages,” Vega says. She hopes to bring the idea further along and bring in the youth in Central Falls to play a major role.

“If it’s going to work it has to stay true to the city,” Vega says. “What can we create that stays true to Central Falls, true to its history? What is the creative space going to look like? And really letting the youth guide that.”

As a native of Central Falls, Vega understands the community and its residents. She’s invested, she says.

“If you’re going to affect change, you have to make sure the community is involved,” Vega says.