Asking my neighbors for help was the best thing I did. The opportunity to help one another turns out to be a gift in itself.
I set out to find an integrated role for an artist in a healthy community and I did so with very modest expectations that were simply blown away. I am amazed at what we have done as a community and what the project became. It succeeded far beyond my expectations.
Here are some of the things we accomplished together:
- We got to know our neighbors. Strangers became familiar; familiar faces acquaintances; and acquaintances became friends.
- Significantly many people who had never been to a gallery or seen themselves as participants in the arts came to the Bridge and did so again and again. This is a profound accomplishment.
- We captured a library with thousands of images of people and places, creating a lasting record of a neighborhood in transition.
- The community rallied around an exhibition of those familiar faces. An eighty page catalog preserves and expands on it like a community yearbook.
- We gave away hundreds of prints from that library and thousands of postcards that now adorn fridges, window sills and cubicle walls.
- We created this blog, with profiles celebrating the many of the wonderful people among us.
- Preston and I staged four guerilla photo booths that engaged passers-by, with more to come.
- We had a packed opening reception with locally donated beer, BBQ, nibbles and—most popularly—Spudnuts.
- Speaking of Spudnuts, we screened a documentary that should be required viewing for all residents and we did it in a doughnut shop.
- We toured an active and historic factory for the blind that plays a vital role in the community, yet is essentially hidden at the center of the neighborhood.
- We convened a gathering of top community planners and learned much from them—and hopefully they learned a few things from the artists and residents in the room.
- Three elementary school groups visited the show, with walking-tours past many of the sites where the images were captured.
- An afternoon of rocking-chair storytelling brought long-timers and newer residents together to share reminiscences of how things were and how they have changed. Lulu recorded these oral histories so we can make them available to all.
- A gathering of artists regrouped at the end of the exhibition to talk about our experiences and share new ways to animate our communities.
- We attracted outrageously much media attention—more than I could keep track of. They were interested because positive stories about neighbors coming together inspire their listeners, viewers and readers.
- We nudged several sidelined artists back into the game. I won’t name them publicly but that’s one of the bits of which I’m most proud.
- You all inspired me and gave my own career quite a jolt.
- Update (5/6): We had a very successful kickstarter campaign, receiving 65 contributions totaling $4,000. Perhaps more impressive than the financial amount, which exceeded most expectations, was the incredible moral support from the community and huge social-media response (165 Facebook likes).
- We will make available the oral histories as transcribed text and/or audio files on the web.
- We plan to create an audio itinerary, similar to what you find in museums. More on that soon.
- We will make available the highlights of the image archive. Many of them are already here.
- We will keep taking pictures, sharing our gifts with one another and keep getting to know our neighbors even better.