Peter Kageyama loves cities, and people. And he knows how to get the best out of people to make cities great. He is the author of For the Love of Cities: The Love Affair Between People and Their Places and the follow up, Love Where You Live: Creating Emotionally Engaging Places. Peter is invited to talk to local governments all over the world, because he really, really knows his stuff. And he cares.
How did you get into your role helping cities?
About ten years ago I was speaking with cities on issues around talent attraction and retention. I had been working with Charles Landry, the English author of The Creative City and he asked me what I wanted to say about all of this. I realised that a recurring thread in all the cities I was visiting was a core group of committed citizens who were doing amazing things for their communities, not because they were paid to, but because they loved their city. I felt that no one was telling their story and the incredibly important role that they played in making great places. The idea of the first book came from there and I have been fortunate enough to be spreading that message all over America and around the world.
What similarities do you see between St Petersburg in Florida, where you live, and Tauranga?
We are both waterfront cities and the water is a defining part of our respective identities. We are both tourist destinations and known for great weather. But we have one significant difference – Mount Maunganui. Florida is a big, flat sand bar. We don’t have the topography and the corresponding great views that you have.
What did you do in Tauranga when you were last here?
I had been invited by Tracey Rudduck-Gudsell who was then with Creative Tauranga to come and speak with the creative community in Tauranga as well as with council and local business leaders about the value of emotional engagement with our city. We also did a half-day community workshop, For the Love of Tauranga, that brought over 100 citizens to explore how they could become more involved community-builders.
From this workshop came all sorts of ideas, such as the Piano Project, stationed at The Incubator, run by Simone Anderson.
Can you tell us about some of the ideas you have implemented which have seen cities transformed?
I share stories and hopefully plant seed that cities then take and make their own. A good example comes from a small town in Massachusetts, which has an annual dinner on the bridge that crosses at the centre of town. It is a wonderful way to see and appreciate your city in a different way. I have shared that idea and others have taken it and done versions of it: dinner on a dam, dinner on a rooftop, or even dinner down the main street of their downtown.
In my workshops I share lots of inexpensive examples and highlight the impact that a small, micro-grant can have in a community. A $500 grant in the hands of creative people can go a long way and several communities have initiated some version of a micro-grant programme that gets money into the hands of everyday citizens and not just formal organisations.
We have quite a bit of discussion going on in Tauranga at the moment about what to do with our CBD; the waterfront, which has been a carpark, is now a children’s playground, and also has a train track running the length of it, servicing our port. The cafés and restaurants are set reasonably far back on the other side of a road. There are different groups who have started to make plans for the city, which is great, but not everyone seems to be moving in the same direction. Can you give us some advice?
Like many cities, Tauranga industrialised its waterfront which is why you have the train tracks right down there next to the roads, effectively blocking easy access to the water. The playground I think is a good step forward. I also read about the Luminarium that was there in 2015. It looked fabulous and hopefully created a buzz around town.
What a project like that does is show us the possibilities of something different. It feels like the CBD and Tauranga as a whole need to psychically reconnect with the waterfront. Events like the Luminarium and features like a playground do just that – give us a reason to engage the waterfront. Try some temporary experiments. We need more of those, even simple one-offs that get people into thinking about the waterfront as a place where interesting and different things could happen.
How can we start making a change?
Most people believe that city building is all big stuff: roads, bridges and schools for instance. They say ‘I can’t do any of that,’ so they wait for the official folk to make the city better for them. This puts all the burden on government. But small things like community gardens, pop-up dog parks and neighbourhood festivals are city-making and they have value. There is not a parity of power in this city/citizen relationship but there has to be a parity of caring.
The Piano Project
“This was the concept of a student who was on exchange in New Zealand and had attended Peter’s seminar. She had already worked with me on the large mural in Tauriko. The idea was to have brightly painted pianos placed around the city, for anyone to play. Al fresco, impromptu music makes everyone happy and fills the area with life and soul.
“Our initial aim was to paint three pianos over three days, with about 18 artists. We eventually went on to do 11 with a steampunk one still in progress. All the pianos were donated and the project was not funded in any way, just a lot of artists and some free test pots from Resene.
When the word got out we were approached by organisations such as Katch Katikati, Bethlehem and Greerton town centres, The Pilot Bay boardwalk initiative, Mainstreet TGA and Creative Tauranga for pianos in their locations. Most are still in use today nearly three years later.”
Simone Anderson from The Incubator