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All We Need Is Here

Now that I write this blog, people send me interesting and inspiring links. Thank you for that. Because you keep feeding me good ideas, I keep thinking about creative community in new ways.

This time of year, when it seems all the color has been washed from the world, it can be easier to note what we are missing (sunshine, blue skies, snow!) than to count our blessings.

Last night, at the annual Solstice bonfire,  I stood with my family watching sparks against the cloudy, black sky. The huge fire, whipping in the wind, was bright and gorgeous. Around me, the faces that had been dark and anonymous were newly lit by the fire's glow and made bright and gorgeous. I felt blessed to be part of this community.

The Madison East-side neighborhoods come together as a village for celebrations. The bonfire for the winter solstice is organized by a coalition of neighborhood groups and businesses. It, along with the summer solstice party, has added to the local culture for 13 years.

Going back home to my own smaller neighborhood after the bonfire, I was reminded that, when teased apart from the rest of the East-side village, the Tenney-Lapham streets can look a bit grungy.

Empty storefronts? Weedy lots? Chain-link fences and unused buildings? Tenney-Lapham has it all. Swaths of the neighborhood are officially "blighted,"  which is sometimes noted publicly by developers.

But when the light shines at the right angle, the downtown neighborhood is also a highly desirable place to live. It would be nice to polish up some of our "assets."

Here are a few ideas for "light, quick, and cheap" ways to revitalize tired or overlooked spaces. During these dark winter days, maybe we'll find inspiration to really bloom in the coming year(s).

Chain-link Fences

Imagine, it could look more like this (it is an ad, but I find it inspired):

Empty storefronts

I find this empty storefront on State Street more interesting. The temporary exhibition, funded with a BLINK! grant, is called "This is Only a Facade" by Tyanna Buie.

Small Green Spaces

This example, a tiny corner of Reynolds Park, shows how plants can transform a space. An incredibly dedicated gardener who lives a few houses from this mini-park is responsible for adding so much color to our neighborhood sightline.

Blank Walls

This is not a call for pop-up graffiti, but I do love this mural on the side of Plan B located on the other side of the isthmus.

Notably, a brick wall at Mother Fools Coffeehouse at 1101 Willy Street has been a rotating canvas since 2001. It is a program of the business owners that brings unique art, and color, to the neighborhood.

It doesn't have to be massive...
A piece by Alex Brewer on a church in washington DC, 2012 photo by HENSE and Miguel Martinez.

The point is, these ideas can be done without a lot of money. There are some hoops (permissions), but they are far more easily navigated than you might think. And the results are both human in scale and humanizing. They remind people who live here, and those who pass through, that we are a community with history, culture, and pride.

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