They Won! Presenting Our Successful Communities Contest Winners
Last month, CommunityMatters asked people to come together, listen to our August call on the Secrets to Successful Communities with Ed McMahon, then decide on one completely achievable action for making their community more successful. To sweeten the deal, the Orton Family Foundation offered $500 to four communities that came up with an idea or strategy for success. Sixteen of the 17 parties came up with a next step for taking action.
Public voting helped us select the following four entries to win $500. Congratulations to Discover Downtown Middlesboro, Upstream Arts Collective, the Medfield Cultural District, and Old Time Ozark Traditions! We’ll keep an eye on these projects over the coming months and share their progress with you.
Middlesboro, Kentucky (pop. 10,334): Faced with an unemployment rate of 15%, a median household income that is less than half the national average, a lack of civic pride and vacant storefronts downtown, you might think that this small city had seen its best day. Discover Downtown Middlesboro, a Main Street organization, has their work cut out for them, but Executive Director Isaac Kremer spreads nothing but hope and optimism. His organization has already seen great success since it was founded in 2006 – the completion of an organizational strategic plan, creation of a city blueprint for economic improvement and a survey of historic buildings (just to name a few).
These plans will help Middlesboro down the road to success, but Isaac also knew that he needed a way to bring the community together to change perceptions about downtown and make visible the positive change that’s in the works. The Middlesboro listening party brought together more than ten people to help plan and prepare for a Better Block event. Scheduled for late October, the two-day project of temporary installations will demonstrate downtown’s potential by filling vacant storefronts with temporary pop-up shops, creating seating along Main Street and hanging signs to highlight future upgrades.
Silverton, Oregon (pop, 9,222): With a desire to inspire ongoing conversations about real and lasting community change, the Upstream Arts Collective plans to host community conversations in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The Upstream Arts Collective is a newly established group of artists, writers and makers inspired to leave future generations a culture that is at least as vibrant as the one they inherited.
The Collective will use their contest winnings to host the FRED Conference – a nod to Mister Rogers featuring talks on the art of neighboring. Why focus on neighbors? The listening party crew thinks there is great potential for community transformation in developing relationships literally right outside their front doors. They hope the speakers, curated conversations and collaborative elements of the FRED Conference will spark imaginations and help participants see their neighborhoods with fresh eyes.
Medfield, Massachusetts (pop. 12,024): The Town of Medfield is an historic suburban town located on an important crossing point of the Charles River valley in Massachusetts. Medfield's downtown has a rich mixture of historic buildings and dramatic natural features – assets the Medfield Cultural District wants to capitalize on. The Medfield Cultural District is building partnerships to improve the vitality of downtown through their support of cultural activities, local businesses and open spaces. Their vision is to create a vibrant downtown destination that just can’t be missed.
Medfield’s submission to the Successful Communities Contest focused on an underutilized pocket park in the heart of downtown. A two-part community art project in the park will increase the visibility of this space while engaging the local community in creating a vision for its future. Inspired by Candy Chang’s Before I Die project, residents will be encouraged to write their ideas on a visible chalkboard installed in the park by completing the sentence, “In this park, I want to ________.” Then, as part of the global art project Inside Out, photographs of residents will be pasted on the ground to highlight a walkway through the park.
Mountain View, Arkansas (pop. 2,748): A county seat characterized by a mix of artisans, professionals, retirees, retail and service occupations this small town is an established tourist destination. People in Mountain View love to gather and play music of all sorts, and they do so nearly every weekend when the weather is good (or around a wood stove during the more frigid months). However, much of the traditional music is being lost to the prominence of more modern sounds - even the Arkansas Folk Festival is no longer truly traditional “folk.”
Old Time Ozark Traditions plans to create a music festival that will showcase traditional styles, seeking to protect local heritage and educate others about true old-time music. By preserving music as a central element of community character, Mountain View will help protect its quaint atmosphere for residents and visitors alike.
What about the entries that didn’t win? You can view all contest submissions in our online gallery, and we’ll be sending them a few goodies in appreciation of their hard work. Thanks to all who participated in our event – we couldn’t have done it without you!