Member Spotlight: David Ross

Posted by David Ross, Linda Lombardi, Mar 08, 2022 0 comments

As creative placemaking coordinator for The Arts Commission in Toledo, Ohio, David Ross is a community artist turned advocate for youth and creativity. An alum of The Arts Commission’s Young Artist at Work program, he has been a member of the creative placemaking team since 2020, working to connect visual art and social issues. Ross also chairs the City of Toledo Human Relation Commission’s Stop the Violence Committee, co-chairs the Toledo Racial Equity & Inclusion Council, and is the founder of a local celebrity basketball charity contest, Dunkin 4 Donations.

Person with chin-length locs and a trimmed beard, wearing a leather jacket
David Ross, photo by Ltoy of Thetoyboxent.

How do you define creative placemaking?

It really depends on who’s asking. From an organizational standpoint, I break creative placemaking down to social and civic practice. If I’m speaking to community, I simply say that I use a creative approach to address social issues identifying and addressing community needs. If I’m speaking to youth, I tell them it is the creative industry’s field of the future for the underserved population, so learn beautification, community engagement, and space activating.

What led you to this work? And what do you enjoy most about it?

Prior to my Arts Commission/Junction work I addressed community needs by any means, there was no focus area. This work found me, I believe. I was at a boxing gym just being a positive influence with a creative career, but without the preparations, training, and leadership I was given, I would not be the David people know.

You focus your work on areas of juvenile justice and restorative justice. What role can creative placemaking play in communities? 

Creative placemaking is the answer to social justice artistically filling in the gaps and barriers in equality and opportunity. Not knowing how to express yourself or not having pride will make you not see the value of the land or opportunity to flourish. Creative placemaking directly addresses those issues with a creative and sustainable approach. A great deal of hardship is the result of harm and lack of expression in poverty, poverty directly associated to crime. Healing and expression help communities of poverty change the narrative.

How has your work impacted the different communities of Toledo?

In Toledo I learned from our motto, “inspiring a vibrant Toledo,” and over time beautifying the city parks as a safe space. Then identifying safe spaces within community hubs, you realize safety is an issue. The process of identifying the needs through community conversation, the natural role became being trusted creative leaders in the community, and our team started to be a household response to community issues.

Americans for the Arts Membership

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