Since our launch back in April, we've been experimenting with events in Riversdale, with the intention of getting to know our community and bringing people from different backgrounds together. This has given us the experience to recognize what special talents Riversdale Love can bring to the community. Namely, our unique skills lie in using the arts and culture as a means of building a healthy community, bringing people together and fostering change and collaboration.
This fall, I started an online course in Creative Placemaking. What is Creative Placemaking? International leaders in this emerging field, Toronto's Artscape defines it best: "Creative Placemaking is an evolving field of practice that intentionally leverages the power of the arts, culture and creativity to serve a community's interest while driving a broader agenda for change, growth and transformation in a way that also builds character and quality of place."
This experience gave me an appreciation of the incredible cultural assets at work in Riversdale: artists, studios, galleries and artist-run centres all exist here, in addition to a number of social agencies who use art/culture programming. We've got a mix of businesses, social agencies, organizations, a thriving creative class, ethnic and economic diversity, proximity to the river, a Farmer's Market--all the ingredients of a natural cultural district and other communities around the world strive for.
I've spent this course asking how we can use our assets to address some of the real issues that our neighbourhood faces: displacement, gentrification, poverty and more.
Of course, these problems are not unique and communities around the world provide interesting and creative precedents that we can borrow from. Broken City Lab's projects around North America empower artists to be change makers and their Neighborhood Time Exchange could be an interesting model to adopt in Riversdale. Perhaps a project like Stories of Ours could offer Riversdale residents an opportunity to have a voice, cross cultural borders and build relationships. Philadelphia Mural Arts Program has innovative programs using art to engage mental health patients to facilitate healing and community building.
(above) Neighbourhood Time Exchange, Stories of Ours, Dorchester Art Houses, Project Row Houses use art to provide creative solutions to neighbourhood issues and provide interesting precedents for Riversdale.
Of course, our project has to be unique to the specific challenges and opportunities of Riversdale. With that in mind, Riversdale Love is currently creating an ADVISORY PANEL of community members and leaders. Our advisory panel will meet early in 2016, with the intention of creating a strategy for community engagement. We'll develop a series of events that connect people, educate us about Riversdale and reveal opportunities for a project that will respond to the unique needs and desires of the community.