At 8am on a Wednesday morning in Vermont, our farmhouse kitchen is already bustling with Creative Community Fellows, staff and mentors. There is a group of five sitting at the table talking about how Peter Frumkin challenged them in yesterday’s session on logic models. There are several Fellows spread out on the balcony, discussing the leadership mantras they created with faculty Jessica Solomon.
Chimes ring and it is time for the day to begin. This morning we are gathering to learn about one of Hamida Khatri’s passions – puppet making. In twenty minutes we are able to share and create together. It is the perfect start to a day of deep dives and tough conversations.
This is how a typical morning begins at Creative Community House, the first gathering of the Creative Community Fellows program.
In July, we spent eight days with the Creative Community Fellows in eastern Vermont, living and working together. Fellows took an in-depth look at their projects for community change. They shared their goals and identified potential challenges that lie ahead. They participated in sessions on strategy, design thinking and authentic leadership. They worked one-on-one and in groups sessions with mentors from around the world, working in social entrepreneurship, arts & culture and cultural organizing. Most importantly, they built a community of support and collaboration. The group formed incredibly strong bonds, of which the ripple effects continue, as they have made their ways back to their home communities.
The group of Fellows includes architects, artists, community organizers, urban planners and arts administrators. All are united by their integration of culture into community change strategies. The connections made within this cohort strengthened each Fellow’s ability to carry out the kind of cross-sector collaboration that is required in creative placemaking work.
What kind of projects are Fellows working on?
In Kingston, New York, Emily Puthoff is the co-founder of the Hudson Valley Bee Habitat. Alongside her team, she has partnered with the Kingston Land Trust to create the Bee-Line along the emerging Kingston Greenline, a network of linear parks along former rail lines. The Bee-Line uses the arts, bee-education and mindfulness to engage the community with their environment and each other.
In Portland, Oregon, Van Pham is connecting artists and non-profits to underused or dis-used buildings. Van is particularly interested in churches, as the decline of church attendance and religious affiliation is at a high, leaving a vast amount of vacant churches throughout the US and Europe. Her work through Xurches has allowed these spaces to remain gathering spaces in their communities in both religious and secular ways.
In the Mattapan neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, there is a lack of studio space for artists, despite the number or artists that called this place home. Allentza Michel and her team at Open Streets/Open Studios are using the entire neighborhood as a canvas, literally. By pairing artists and designers with residents, they are working to transform intersections that need cross walks, parking spots that might be parklets, old pay phones that sit untouched and dusty, to re-brand Mattapan and revitalize the community.
Through the sharing of their passions – puppet making, chalk art, creative movement, storytelling, environmental observation, reading and so much more – Fellows created an environment together where holding each other accountable was necessary and taken with gratitude. They were vulnerable and thankful.
As the dust settles on our time together in Vermont, we look forward to the many months Fellows will spend connecting online and continuing this work together. In January, Fellows will gather for the second and final time as a group on Bainbridge Island, WA. We look forward to seeing how far they will have come.
Follow their journey online using #NASCCF and see the images from the Creative Community House experience here.
Creative Community Fellows is the result of the incredible support from The Kresge Foundation, the Bush Foundation and The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. ArtPlace America was a partner is developing and shaping this program. Creative Community House is developed and presented in partnership with University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Social Impact Strategy.