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Public Art and Gastronomy in the Pursuit of Creative Place Identity

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The advent of industrialisation brought with it the erosion of the vernacular identities of many geographical areas. Rapid technological advancements have facilitated hasty transformations in the urban realm. This has resulted in a contemporary
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  Public Art and Gastronomy in the Pursuit of Creative Place Identity Hajara Iyal 18022541P32081 EssayUrban Design Development Seminars  Place identity can be dened as a set of meanings associated with a cultural landscape which can be drawn upon by a person or a group of people in the construction of their own place identity (Butina-Watson and Bentley, 2007). In other words, place identity encompasses the wide range of physical, social and psychological characteristics which are associated with a particular place. The advent of industrialisation brought with it the erosion of the vernacular identities of many geographical areas. Rapid technological advancements have facilitated hasty transformations in the urban realm. This has resulted in a contemporary identity crisis where places around the globe increasingly resemble one another in form, style, customs etc. Urban environments have long held the desire to distinguish themselves from other places. In the face of growing globalisation and urban homogenisation, cities are more intentional than ever about pursuing distinct identities along their socio-economic, cultural and urban landscapes. Governments around the world make signicant attempts to carve out unique place identities to promote themselves within global markets. Cities around the world have begun to engage in schemes to promote urban regeneration based on their local cultures and heritage. Residents in the cities are shown the value of reinforcing and enhancing place specic identity. Image 1: Urban environments are increasingly similar  The world today has become smaller than ever before, as a result of fast and ecient exchange of ideas, resources, media and people. This has created an innate need within many cities to carve and sustain their own identity in order to remain relevant and compete in the global landscape. In order to sustain the harmony between the constant and changing elements, people and events, a city must create and sustain a unique place identity (Boussaa, 2017). When discussing place identity, tangible elements such as architectural elements, ornaments, building materials and techniques often spring to mind initially. These are the most visual and physically distinguishable elements often cited in discussions around place identity. In addition to these however, elements such as language, cuisine, art and storytelling also play a signicant role in the reconstruction and solidication of place identity. The purpose of this essay is to explore the role of street art and gastronomic appeal in the creation of a new form of contemporary place identity. This essay will explore how public street art and gastronomy can help a city to remain sustainable, competitive and desirable to residents and tourists in an increasingly globalised and homogenised world. The essay is categorised into three main sections. The rst part of the essay will explore the emergence of public street art as a tool to promote harmony and social cohesion. The second part of the essay will analyse the use of gastronomic appeal to attract local and international attention to urban environments. The third part of the essay will outline how the aforementioned elements are utilised in the island city of Penang in Malaysia to create and sustain a form of urban place identity.  PUBLIC STREET ART The evolution of public art began in prehistoric times. Cave and rock markings show that human beings have been carving and etching symbols, messages and markings onto surfaces for a long time. Along the course of history, public art has been used by artists as a means of social commentary to spread messages about political, social, economic and historical concerns. Nowadays, the power of art in creative placemaking is gradually being recognised by policy makers and planners. Many developed and likewise developing countries are using art, particularly public street art as a key driver in urban regeneration. These often include everything from grati and street murals to sculptures and installations. In mid 20th century Mexico, Diego Rivera’s murals were used as a means of expressing a complex Mexican history(Butina-Watson and Bentley, 2007). His murals depict scenes from past heroic feats to the everyday picture of daily life in Mexico. His many murals serve not just as a reminder of the intricacies of the Mexican identity but they also promote pride in the newly awakened Mexican identity (Homan, 2015). Image 2: Mural painted by Diego Rivera  Image 3: Mural painted by Diego Rivera Public street art continues to play a necessary role in the creation of creative urban places. Street artists cleverly make use of everything within the local environment as their canvas; from oors and walls to buses and administrative buildings in order to transform and revitalise the public realm. Street art serves not only as an aesthetic tool to enhance the public environment, but it also bears meaningful connotations and serves as a form of alternative media for local residents and tourists(Shu Fun, 2014).  Another example of successful placemaking through public art is in the City of Philadelphia. In 1984, the city launched a program to curb illegal and unregulated grati titled the ‘Mural Arts Program’. This involved a collaboration between professional artists and grati artists to create new murals in the city. The program has been highly successful thus far and is credited with the promotion of communal engagement in a diverse society, diusion of racial tensions and facilitation of social cohesion. Over time, public art is seen as a positive avenue of public expression that leads to self-actualizationand ecacy for individuals and wider the communities that engage with the artwork (Welch, 2016). In the years following the inception of the mural arts program, Philadelphia has seen a surge in the number of tourists to the city, with approximately 12,000 tourists visiting the public art annually (Markusen and Gadwa, 2010). This has, in turn, revitalised many neighbourhoods and improved the economy.
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