Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

Co-Creation From the Grassroots: Listening to Arts-Based Community Organizing in Little Tokyo

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Abstract:  Co-creation has been adopted by some as a new paradigm for collaborative and participatory planning, especially through the introduction of creative and artistic practices which can disrupt the problematic power relationships latent within urban projects and knowledge creation. Co-creation research, however, has often focused on practices which connect empowered institutional actors, such as city planning officials, from the top down to less empowered grassroots and community actors. Co-creation can take myriad forms, however, and I use evidence from the Los Angeles community of Little Tokyo to, first, model grassroots-driven co-creation. Second, this example shows how empowered actors can practice “listening” as defined within public spheres literature to better respond to grassroots-driven co-creation. Third, Little Tokyo has also been the site of another promising form of co-creation practice: horizontal co-creation across multiple grassroots actors. In sum, I argue that co-creation practices which emanate from the grassroots can provide valuable insights, further a more just and inclusive city, and deserve more attention.

Keywords:  arts organizing; co-creation; gentrification; listening; Little Tokyo; Los Angeles; participation; participatory planning; public art; public spheres



© Jonathan Jae-an Crisman. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.