Richardson: Projects like The Cherry Street Legacy Plan make impactWritten by Rachel Richardson | | firstname.lastname@example.org
There are two kinds of people in the world. There are the kind who drive with their windows down in the summertime and the kind who stay sealed inside their car with the forced false air. There are the kind who surrender to the natural flow toward progress, and there are the kind who spend all their energy struggling to maintain stagnation. There are the kind who see an old abandoned building with boards on the windows and decide to make paintings out of them, and there are the kind who would rather just tear the building down. There are the kind who see a broken system and innovate ways to fix it because of the widespread effect it has on their community, and there are the kind whose complacency is just another form of self-serving greed.
There are the kind who complain that no one is doing the thing they want done, and there are the kind who do it.
In Toledo, we most certainly have both kinds of people. I’ve worked in cooperation with some and in opposition to others. Stepping out of social activism and further into art activism has smoothed my personal path because opposition is much less likely in a town with such a creative collective mind.
I am immensely grateful to the social activists who have the strength and stomachs to continue that fight; it wore me all the way out.
Now, I have the privilege of being a full-time artist and can choose absolute tunnel vision and tune out the noise of the nightly news and the naysayers and simply focus on music, culture and the force with which these things are changing my community. I also get to infuse art into the fights of my comrades and periodically ring the bell of measurable social change, which is always a good time.
I met The Cherry Street Legacy Plan as a social activist and stayed on the team as an art activist because responsible institutions like Mercy St. Vincent’s Medical Center see that working in collaboration with grassroots movements is in everyone’s best interest. The Cherry Street Legacy Plan works to revitalize a historic part of Toledo consisting of approximately 2.1 miles along Cherry Street extending from Greenbelt Parkway to the Berdan islands where Detroit Avenue, Cherry Street and Collingwood Boulevard intersect.
Its mission is to be committed to data-driven, neighborhood-led interventions to improve the physical environment for increased health and well-being of the community. Through crime reduction, Block Watch, urban agriculture and now art, the Cherry Street Legacy area is well on its way to revitalization. Committed neighbors, who refuse to let their homes be vandalized or forgotten by the city, have planted community gardens in conjunction with Toledo GROWs. They keep each other aware of the goings-on in the neighborhood by going outside and having actual conversations with each other.
And now they’ve welcomed the likes of me and my artist friends to guide neighborhood kids and older folks in the tranformation of blight into art, à la the Heidelberg Project in Detroit that I encourage you to look further into than I can go here. I also suggest you familiarize yourself with The Cherry Street Legacy Plan and see how having an anchor institution like a local hospital take up your cause can launch initiatives and accelerate their impact at rates that make institutions who refuse to listen to their consumers look foolish and antiquated.
Wisdom would say that when the investment in an improvement comes from the ground up, it has a much better chance at succeeding and gaining momentum. An evolved institution sees that all it needs to do is give a simple nod of approval to the actions of the people nearby.
This approval may take all kinds of forms. It could be acknowledging a certain bureaucratic step that may be expedited by a person in one corner office saying to a person in another corner office, “Let’s see what the community has to say about it. They’re the ones who live here.” It could be in supporting and working to implement projects spearheaded by small local organizations, rather than continuing to try to roll them over or spinning out in political inaction.
It could take the form of being the kind of person who invests and builds rather than exploits and destroys. The former is much more Toledo’s style.
Email Rachel Richardson at email@example.com.