Building Community By Hand

By     Jun 29, 2015
   
Community is one of those terms we toss around that could mean anything from a nuclear group of close friends and family to a city of several million. It’s an amorphous goal we strive toward, often without a clear concept of its meaning.

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Not too long ago in our past, though, you knew your community. They were faces you’d see every day. They were the people with whom you could commiserate about the unrelenting rain or lack thereof. And, perhaps most bindingly, they were the ones who would be there when something went wrong.

In rural areas, they’d be there with tools if your pipes burst from the cold or ready to pitch in if you broke a leg. In the city, they’d help look after your children and ensure their safety even if you had to run an errand. You didn’t have to be friends with all of them – heck, you didn’t even have to like them very much – but you had to look out for them, because care is community’s currency.

Community is humanity at it’s finest and most basic. And it’s something we’re at risk of losing in our increasingly digital, ever-expanding world.

 

Small Steps
I started The Homestead Atlanta for a pretty run-of-the-mill reason: I felt something was missing. I grew up in the city, vaguely knew a handful of my neighbors, and – though I always had a love for creating things with my hands – mostly consumed rather than produced with an uneasy understanding of the systems functioning to keep my day-to-day life running smimage2oothly.

In addition to slowly understanding the instability of these systems, I also noticed a background hum of alienation and isolation in people around me. I worked the 9-5, cubicle grind and couldn’t help noticing how fiercely I wanted something to show for the time I spent each day beyond a spreadsheet or a file. In short, I wanted a community and a meaningful way to contribute to it.

At The Homestead Atlanta, we bring together people from all walks of life unified by the desire to learn how to create a more sustainable, fulfilling life by hand. Whether we’re preserving heritage skills that used to be handed down generation to generation like canning or exploring sustainability innovations in solar energy, water catchment or permaculture, we’re creating a collaborative space for the sharing of skills and – as importantly – fostering the sense of community that our post-modern day-to-day lives tend to crowd out. We take the time to sit together, learn together, work together, and tell stories. We swap food we made from scratch. We understand that sharing our time and knowledge is one of the most generous and radical acts left to us.

 

Community for Community Builders
image3Despite the success of The Homestead Atlanta and the excitement of watching a vision become a reality, I began to feel the creeping effects of burnout. And then it hit me: a sense of community is just as important for community builders.

I realized that the only way forward was to find a group of people struggling with the same stresses and celebrating the same victories in which I could participate. Discovering the National Arts Strategies Creative Community Fellows program could not have come at a better time; and I can’t wait to share with and learn from this amazing cohort of people.