Soul Of The Community

My post last week, Pondering Public Art/Beyond the Buffalo generated some great comments.  People were enthusiastic about growing Jamestown’s cultural assets and I received a variety of useful links and data to help this process move forward. I particularly wanted to share this link to the Soul of the Community project organized by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in association with Gallup. Thanks to Holly Miller of Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corporation for sharing this study.

What Attaches People to Their Communities?

What makes a community a desirable place to live? What draws people to stake their future in it? Are communities with more attached residents better off?

The Soul of the Community project was launched in 2008 with these questions in mind. After interviewing close to 43,000 people in 26 communities over three years, the study has found that three main qualities attach people to place: SOCIAL OFFERINGS, such as entertainment venues and places to meet, OPENNESS (how welcoming a place is) and the area’s AESTHETICS (its physical beauty and green spaces).

At the time, these results surprised researchers, but now they have become the foundation of community change across the country. If we can find invested partners to help develop the Art Park, that process has great potential to facilitate Jamestown’s transformation to a place of attachment. I’m an optimist, while the Art Park may seem like a small transformative step for Jamestown, I believe this process could initiate a domino effect that will lead to additional “attachment-generating” projects and programs within the community.

Over the next eight months the Arts Center will be working with community partners including residents, business owners, and government (city/county) leaders to develop plans for the Art Park. Transforming the corner green space to community asset (an aesthetically pleasing space that is a destination for social engagement and open/accessible to all) requires the creativity of many. Broad based input in the planning process will ensure that the Art Park meets (and exceeds) community expectations and is essential to any grant seeking necessary to fund its completion.