Tom Borrup, Ph.D. is a 2015 graduate of the PhD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dr. Tom Borrup [Center] at his Dissertation Defense with Dr. Laurien Alexandre [Left], Committee Member and Dr. Jon Wergin [Right], Committee Chair. Yellow Springs, Ohio, August 2015 . [Not Shown: Dr. Mark J. Stern, Committee Member, Dr. Emily Talen, External Reader]

Dissertation Committee

  • Jon Wergin, PhD, Committee Chair
  • Laurien Alexandre, PhD, Committee Member
  • Mark J. Stern, PhD, Committee Member
  • Emily Talen, PhD, External Reader


urban cultural districts, creative cities, economic development, multiple case study, placemaking, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Miami, leadership, horizontal networks, arts districts, city planning, community revitalization, redevelopment, regeneration

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Many authors point to expanding disparities related to wealth and social benefits brought by globalization and the creative city movement while culture and creativity emerge as growing forces in urban placemaking and economic development. The phenomenon of cultural district formation in cities around the globe presents challenges and opportunities for leaders, planners, and managers. Emerging theory related to cultural districts suggests culture can serve to build horizontal relationships that bridge people and networks from different sectors and professions as well as across ethnicities, class, and interests. Research for this dissertation examined the formation of three urban cultural districts social and their respective organizational networks in different contexts. I employed a multiple case study approach to ask: How do horizontal networks form in the process of planning, organizing and/or ongoing management of cultural districts, and what kinds of benefits do those networks generate within their communities? Field research focused on districts in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Miami. This dissertation is positioned within ongoing discourse around the tension between form and function in the production of space (Lefebvre, 1974/1991) and within the dialectic of centralization and decentralization in urban planning and governance (Friedmann, 1971) characterized by the push for broad social equity and the pull of local control. Research found that strong horizontal networks characterized by dense and active grassroots leadership were present at the same time as relative community stability and higher levels of social and economic equity. Where horizontal networks were weak, social and economic tensions were higher. The research did not examine other potential factors and thus cannot ascertain whether strong networks resulted in greater stability and equity or whether stability and more equitable conditions brought on by other factors fostered the formation of stronger networks. This dissertation is available in open access at AURA, and OhioLink ETD Center,


Tom Borrup, Ph.D.

Tom Borrup is a leader and innovator in creative community building and creative placemaking – leveraging cultural and other assets to advance economic, social, civic, and physical regeneration of place-­‐based communities. As the Principal of Creative Community Builders, he consults with cities, foundations, and nonprofits across the U.S. to integrate arts, economic development, urban planning and design, civic engagement, and animation of public space.

His 2006 book, The Creative Community Builders’ Handbook, remains the leading text in the field. It profiles communities that have transformed their economic, social, and physical infrastructures through the arts. From 2003 to 2009 he consulted with the Ford Foundation’s Shifting Sands Initiative to assist community-­‐based cultural organizations to take leading roles in local revitalization.

As Executive Director of Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis from 1980 until 2002, Tom helped transform a diverse urban neighborhood while building a nationally recognized multidisciplinary, cross-­‐cultural organization. Tom has served as a member of many nonprofit boards and funding panels for public and private agencies, and was a trustee of the Jerome Foundation in Saint Paul from 1994 to 2003 where he served as Chair from 2001 to 2003. With the National Endowment for the Arts, Tom served on a variety of funding and policy panels over 25 years in the media arts, visual arts, presenting, design, and advancement program categories.

Tom earned his Ph.D. in Leadership and Change at Antioch University researching the role of social and organizational networks in the planning and management of cultural districts. Tom has an M.A. in Communications and Public Policy from Goddard College and was a 2001-­‐2002 Fellow in the Knight Program in Community Building at the University of Miami School of Architecture.

He serves in an administrative capacity as Director of Graduate Studies for the University of Minnesota’s Masters in Arts and Cultural Leadership and teaches Creative Placemaking for Ohio State University’s Knowlton School of Architecture’s Urban and Regional Planning Graduate Program. He also teaches in Graduate Programs in Arts and Culture Management at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and online for Drexel University’s Arts Administration Graduate Program.

Creative Community Builders is a network of planners, designers, and artists who assist place-­‐based communities formulate visions, devise strategies, and move forward together. We help clients identify and leverage cultural and creative assets for community and organizational revitalization and change. We use methods from strategic planning, community organizing and capacity building, and we integrate the arts, culture, design, civic engagement, and local cultural and economic development.

Other Publications

  • Borrup, T. (2015). Protecting Cultural Space or Urban Re-colonization: When Do Cultural Districts Cross the Line?. Journal Of Urban Culture Research, 11, 38-57. doi:
  • ORCID SCHOLAR ID # 0000-0003-3031-2681