Rural Placemaking Studio

Calling all rural placemakers, movers, and shakers!

Working in tandem with the IU ServeDesign Center at the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design, the Rural Placemaking Studio enhances quality of place within communities by facilitating partnerships with expert IU faculty and students in comprehensive design, creative placemaking, and community arts engagement to uncover, link, and leverage unique assets identified by residents. 

Community Planning

  • Facilitate community planning sessions to gather input on the development of public spaces.

Schematic Design

  • Develop design concepts that consider aesthetics, spatial relationships, and accessibility
  • Create renderings and visuals for fundraising

Architectural Pre-design

  • Work with community partners and local experts to collect preliminary project data
  • Measure existing buildings, as-built drawings
  • Assist with defining the project brief, including helping to establish goals and objectives, gather relevant information, determine quantitative requirements, and define expectations

Public Art Installations

  • Co-created pieces that tell the story of the community, celebrate local talent, and spark conversation through murals, asphalt paintings, sculptures, and interactive installations

Creative Placemaking

  • Flower planters, seating, basic exterior design
  • Site planning and exterior design for pop-up community spaces, i.e. temporary parks, outdoor markets, and live event spaces

Signage Design

  • Design uniform signage for main street businesses to enliven commercial districts and neighborhoods
  • Wayfinding signage for local businesses or sites

Program details

The application window has closed for this program. Check back later for announcements on upcoming projects.

To be considered eligible for the Rural Placemaking Studio, applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • This program is designed for rural communities of 50,000 people or less located in Indiana.
  • Preference is given to communities located within two hours driving time from IU Bloomington.
  • Eligible applicants include 501c3 nonprofits, 501c6 organizations like chambers of commerce, municipal, tribal, or county governments, and other volunteer-led groups with nonprofit status.
  • The community group, organization, or project manager must:
    • submit an application that indicates the main project idea(s) and who in the community will be responsible for the project(s).
    • be available for regular check-in meetings and the scheduled summer site visits with IU students and faculty and assist in scheduling community planning sessions.

Applicants should show the following:

  • Commitment and capacity to host meetings, community site visits, and technical assistance offerings
  • Alignment with program goals
  • A clear design challenge that is relevant to the local community
  • A desire to learn and share positive experiences with students, faculty, and other program participants
  • Enthusiasm to tackle challenges in the community
  • Commitment to long-term, sustainable solutions

Selected community partners will work with the Rural Placemaking Studio starting March 2024, beginning with community planning sessions, and followed by community site visits and design work from June to August.

  • January 25, 11 a.m.: Informational webinar for interested applicants. Register at
  • February 19: Application submission deadline
  • March through May:
    • Coordinate community planning sessions
    • Finalize scope of work and deliverables
  • June through July:
    • Conduct site visits with students and faculty
    • Develop and finalize design plans
  • August:
    • Hand-off deliverables
    • Implement and install projects suitable for student team
    • Community celebration and networking event
  • September through December:
    • Finalize planning documents, provide consultation and support on fundraising for remaining design work, implementation, and fabrication
    • Create continuation plans to address funding gaps
    • Develop maintenance plans

The IU Center for Rural Engagement will provide active project support and technical assistance up until March 2025 to ensure residents are equipped to carry out the remainder of projects for, with, and by their community. 

Program Leadership

  • Jon Racek, Program Director & Senior Lecturer, Comprehensive Design, IU Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design
  • Nicole Vasconi, Quality of Place Liaison, Center for Rural Engagement
  • Sara Marshall, Rural Placemaking Fellow
  • Marcus Zwiebel, Quality of Place Intern
  • Katie LaTorre, Quality of Place Intern

IU Center for Rural Engagement
The Center for Rural Engagement is reimagining the relationship between universities and rural communities.

Our center calls on the research, expertise, teaching, and service of IU Bloomington faculty, staff, and students to address the challenges Indiana communities face and to enhance opportunities in collaboration with communities. We are leading new pathways to partnerships between non-land-grant, research institutions and rural communities.

ServeDesign Center
The Indiana University ServeDesign Center works in partnership with campus and community to advance engaged scholarship and prepare students for lifelong civic and social responsibility in an increasingly diverse and complex global society.

Working with stakeholders on the local, regional, national, and international levels, with a particular focus on regional and international stakeholders, ServeDesign facilitates collaboration within the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design by offering faculty grants, service-learning training, and match-making through pairing faculty and community partners.

Please note: Direct project funding is not available through participation in the Rural Placemaking Studio. Communities are responsible for raising funds or securing resources for the cost of materials, installation, and implementation.

Upcoming events

About the artwork featured on this page

  • Top of page: Salem Heritage Park by Landscape, Art and Architecture (LAA) Office. Mural by artist Rafael Blanco.
  • Mid-page: "A Common Link" was designed by M. Arch students Rachel Staley and Kayley Adams. Installed at Lake Salinda in Salem, Indiana.