One of the most important (and under-reported) experiments in the Creative Placemaking field has been unfolding in Cincinnati's Price Hill neighborhood over the past eight years.
In Spring of 2011, cellist Laura Jekel was getting ready to complete the Sistema Fellows Program, a professional development program at the New England Conservatory. The program, a prestigious fully funded fellowship that included a month-long residency in Venezuela, was about training musicians to think differently about music education, and learning to use it as a vehicle for social change and community development.
Laura had previously identified Cincinnati as her destination after the conclusion of the fellowship. In March, she made an initial trip to Ohio to see what she could set up for herself. A friend with an urban planning degree recommended that she try to get an appointment with Terry Brundy who worked for the United Way.
Laura told Terry her story about wanting to build a youth orchestra program for at-risk kids that would hopefully change their lives and their trajectories. Within a few minutes, Terry was on the phone with Ken Smith, Executive Director of Price Hill Will, one of Cincinnati's several community development corporations (and a United Way grantee).
At their initial meeting, Laura didn’t bring anything on paper to show to Ken. She decided that she would just talk to him about her ideas and see where it went. “I just told him what I want to do” and that “this is not a music program, but a youth development program that uses music.” She also told him about her fellowship in Boston, and what she had seen in poor neighborhoods in Venezuela and Los Angeles where vibrant music education programs were creating positive opportunities for local children and their families.
Ken asked Laura to return later in the week and bring a proposal so that he could present it to his board of directors. Shortly thereafter, Laura got the green light. Ken offered Laura an office space and supplies, access to health insurance, and the CDC's 501c3 status. She would have to raise the funds to pay herself--and for almost everything else--on her own.
This past June, I invited Laura to return to NEC to present the story of building MYCincinnati, her after-school orchestra program (Part 1) in Cincinnati's Price Hill. For me, the story gets even more interesting in Part 2 ("Creative Placemaking") as she begins to explore the ways in which her work in Price Hill is having a positive impact on the greater community, well beyond the kids participating in her orchestra. And in Part 3, Laura explains how her work over the past eight years has helped to catalyze new community development--both economic and social--including planning for a Warsaw Avenue Creative Campus, a "youth and family-centric campus for residents" based on the CDC's decision to strategically invest in local artists and arts programming.
Please enjoy the following excerpts from Laura's presentation, posted in three separate videos, below.
Sharing student project documentation and, more recently, my own.