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Posts Tagged ‘community development’

Photo: Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership
Hmong dance festival in southwest Minnesota. A Community Development Investments grant from ArtsPlace aims to give newcomers a voice.

Never underestimate the power of art and cultural events to improve lives.

As Amy Evans reports in the magazine Shelterforce (published by the National Housing Institute), the community development field has come to recognize that the arts are key to integrating diverse populations.

Evans discusses the issue with the McKnight Foundation’s Vickie Benson.

“More and more, it seems that arts and culture are being perceived as essential to the core fabric of what builds and nourishes communities — and that gives Benson enormous hope. ArtPlace America, a decade-old collaboration of foundations, federal agencies, and financial institutions, has been one of the driving forces for that shift, Benson says, by insisting that the arts must be in conversation with other sectors, whether community development, housing, or health.

“In Minnesota, the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership (SWMHP) has joined that conversation. With the support of a community development investment [CDI] grant from ArtPlace America, which will provide $3 million in funding over three years, SWMHP is exploring ways of building arts and culture into its operations.

“It’s a bold step for the organization, and one that Benson wholeheartedly applauds.

” ‘Music, dance, or visual art are forms of expression within many cultures. And just the weaving together of these many, many varied cultural traditions is a natural path for people to communicate with each other,’ says Benson. ‘That is what I hope to see, that communities will understand the importance of arts and culture not as an add-on but as a core piece of community development.’ …

“A couple of decades ago, [the future of the southwest Minnesota town of Worthington] future looked bleak. The farm crisis had taken its toll; the town’s population dropped from 10,243 in 1980 to 9,980 in 1990 as people left the area in search of better opportunities.

“The expansion of the meat processing industry in Worthington turned this trend around. JBS Swift and Co., a subsidiary of ConAgra Foods Inc., established what would become its principal plant in Worthington. The impact was far-reaching in the area, propping up small businesses like Smith Trucking Inc. and local hog producers.

“In 1989, increases in productivity led to an additional shift at the plant, attracting workers from literally around the world. … The so-called foreign-born population of Worthington jumped in parallel from 3.7 percent of the total population in 1990 to more than 15 percent in 2000.

“Mike Woll remembers when that shift took place. ‘Worthington’s history of immigration dates back to when I was in high school, when we had some early Lao immigrants,’ Woll recalls. ‘The community became incredibly diverse.’

“Walk into Woll’s high school today and some 50 dialects can be heard, from Central American to Southeast Asian to East African. Downtown on 10th Street, Woll says, ‘you’ll see people from all over the world. Myanmar, Ethiopia, Laos, all sorts of Latin American influence. It’s a remarkable place.’ …

“Woll hopes that one outcome of Worthington’s participation in the CDI Initiative will be preservation of one of the community’s strongest assets.

“ ‘Diversity brings challenges, but it’s put Worthington ahead of the curve. It gives us a broader scope of the world,’ Woll says. He is proud to know that his college-aged son, who grew up in Worthington, can take living in a multicultural environment for granted, even more so than his peers from places like Minneapolis and Chicago. But making space for multiculturalism to truly thrive means giving voice to communities that often haven’t had a seat at the table. Woll hopes that the CDI Initiative will help expand leadership roles to segments of the population who have so much to say, but haven’t had the platform to say it.

“ ‘If not for a program like [ArtPlace], those cultures do get lost,’ Woll says. ‘Having a bit of institutional strength and a financial boost from ArtPlace can help take what are challenges and turn them into positives.’ ”

More at Shelterforce, here.

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A week ago, I went to a cheerful ribbon cutting enlivened by smiling faces and Woonsocket’s own Marching Milkman Band.

Local, state and federal officials, residents, nonprofits such as NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley and Rhode Island Housing, businesses such as the Federal Home Loan Bank, Bank of America and Navigant Bank — and a long list of equally important partners — were celebrating the conversion of the rundown Mulvey’s Hardware into a range of new community uses.

Sandy Seone has the story at the Valley Breeze newspaper.

“A downtown building that sat dormant for more than a decade was declared officially revived this week as NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley celebrated the grand opening of 40 South Main St.

“The $3.3 million renovation project began in 2014 and has resulted in the complete conversion of a former hardware store into six, [one-bedroom] apartments; a meeting space; a rooftop patio; a basement rental area for small businesses; and a kitchen ‘incubator’ space, which will provide top of the line appliances to small-time local cooks and bakers looking for a chance to sell their wares. …

“The six housing units in the building have all been rented – three men and three women are slated to move in soon – and the building has a waiting list of additional potential tenants. The one-bedroom apartments cost $700 per month, and include some 750 square feet of modern space with a kitchen, living room and bathroom.

“Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea was among a small group to tour the two-story building at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on [April 25].

“ ‘Those who have concerns about affordable housing can look at this and see how wonderful the right kind of development truly is,’ Gorbea noted. …

“The construction project is believed to have supported more than 25 local small businesses, and NeighborWorks officials said that the housing units should generate $100,000 annually in consumer spending.”

More at Valley Breeze, here.

Members of the Marching Milkman Band perform at the opening of the latest NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley (NWBRV) development. According to NWBRV Executive Director Joseph Garlick, band members Emily Lisker and Bill Calhoun have played a key role in building the arts community in Woonsocket.
042516-Milkman-Marching-band-Woonsocket

 

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The Providence-based Capital Good Fund, which helps low-income folks get on their feet financially, has been testing an interesting fund-raising idea. Participating artists donate to the Capital Good Fund half the proceeds of a work that they sell through the fund’s platform. The art offerings change every few weeks. I include one example below, and there are more at https://squareup.com/market/cgfund. The selections feature a range of styles. Some works are representational, others impressionistic or abstract.

The organization’s website explains its mission: “Capital Good Fund is a nonprofit, certified Community Development Financial Institution that takes a holistic approach to fighting poverty. We offer small loans and one-on-one Financial & Health Coaching to hard-working families in America. Our mission is to provide equitable financial services that create pathways out of poverty.” More here and here.

The Rhode Island Foundation posts at its own blog about its latest partnership with the Capital Good Fund, an initiative designed to overcome the incentives that drive people to costly payday lenders. Read about that here.

Art: Carol C. Young
Barn on Robin Hill, 11″ x 11″ Giclée, limited edition signed print

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More and more cities are adding mini parklets, pocket vegetable gardens, food trucks, and tiny outdoor businesses to their parks and playground amenities.

Sara Feijo writes for the Cambridge Chronicle, “Parking spots have always been reserved for cars and motorcycles, but that’s no longer the case in Cambridge. The city is now leasing them to restaurants for pop-up cafes. Tasty Burger in Harvard Square was the first to apply for the permit. …

” ‘It’s a cool idea, David Dubois, owner of Tasty Burger, said. …

” ‘The pop-up cafes work in places where the sidewalks don’t facilitate outdoor dining,’ said Katherine Watkins, city engineer for DPW. “It enables us to expand the outdoor program. We’re really excited to see this one go in.’ …

“Unlike outdoor dining, food is not sold in the pop-up café. Folks have to order food inside and then bring it outside. According to Iram Farooq, acting deputy director for the Community Development Department, pop-up cafes must be placed in locations where there is plenty of parking and they must be adjacent to the permitted business.” Read more.

There really are a lot of wasted mini spaces in cities and towns. I myself would like to see something other than weeds growing around the parking meters on Thoreau St. (Anyone want to go with me under cover of darkness and plant tomatoes there?)

Photo: Wicked Local / Sam Goresh
Cambridge restaurants may now lease ‘pop-up cafes’, where diners are invited to eat their take-out orders.

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I’m not sure where I first read about Studio H, but I think you will be interested in this high school that engages students in hands-on construction from design to delivery.

The website explains: “Studio H is a public high school design/build curriculum that sparks community development through real-world, built projects. Originally launched in rural Bertie County, North Carolina, Studio H is now based at REALM Charter School in Berkeley, CA.

“By learning through a design sensibility, applied core subjects, and industry-relevant construction skills, students develop the creative capital, critical thinking, and citizenship necessary for their own success and for the future of their communities.

“Over the course of one semester, students earn high school credit and have the opportunity to design, prototype, and build a full-scale community project. Our students have designed and built some crazy chicken coops for families in need, and a 2,000-square-foot farmers market pavilion.”

More here.

Photographs: http://www.studio-h.org

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You remember the advice at the end of Voltaire’s Candide? “Il faut cultiver ton jardin”? Increasing numbers of people are finding the advice to cultivate a garden a good idea for our times. But the implication of minding one’s own business is not part of it as people become more neighborly and create better communities through gardening.

“In 2002,” writes Katherine Gustafson at YES! Magazine, “two neighbors armed with spades and seeds changed everything for crime-addled Quesada Avenue in San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point area.

“The street had been ground zero for the area’s drug trade and its attendant violence. But when Annette Smith and Karl Paige began planting flowers on a small section of the trash-filled median strip, Quesada Gardens Initiative was born. Over the course of the next decade, the community-enrichment project profoundly altered the face of this once-blighted neighborhood.

“Jeffrey Betcher is the initiative’s unlikely spokesperson. A gay white man driven to the majority-black area by the high cost of housing elsewhere, he moved into a house on Quesada Avenue in 1998 to find drug dealers selling from his front stoop and addicts sleeping beneath his stairs. He told me about the day that he returned home from work to discover that his neighbor Annette had planted a little corner of his yard.

“ ‘Even though there was a throng of people – drug dealers who were carrying guns, pretty scary folks – she had planted flowers on this little strip of dirt by my driveway,’ he told me. ‘I was so moved by that … I thought, that’s what life is about. That’s what community development is about. That’s what’s going to change this block faster than any public investment or outside strategy. And in fact it did.’ ” More here.

If you like this sort of thing, please read a little book called Seedfolks. You will love it.

Photograph: Katherine Gustafson

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I’m learning about cash mobs and how they are used to help small businesses and promote economic development.

I like that it’s kind of a surprise for the business. The town selects a shop for some policy reason like wanting to revitalize a particular part of town or to encourage a promising entrepreneur. It promotes the business for a cash-mob day and encourages local folks to spend some money. People do because it’s fun, and because they, too, want to help.

“A cash mob works like this,” writes the Globe. “City officials, civic groups, or individuals use social media, blogs, and e-mail to spread the word about the event. As @Lowellcashmob tweeted this week, ‘Infusing revenue into Lowell businesses, you never know where the cash mob will strike!’ …

“Merchants do not run them, but are selected for a ‘hit.’ Participants are encouraged to spend $10 to $20. There often aren’t any discounts or incentives — it’s less about nabbing a Black Friday bargain and more about sharing the wealth.” More here.

Got me thinking. How else could this work? Could the town choose a local blood bank for a cash-mob day? How about a “paint the youth center” day? Or a day to buy something at the Pirate Supply Store to support the tutoring program? Would people think that was fun, too?


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