Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Community: Make a Change

By Karen Faass
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut
The Respect Quilt idea was brought to Cromwell Middle School to make an awareness of how some people are treated and that all individuals want to be accepted. This was a “hands-on” activity involving every 8th grade student. It was the intent from the beginning to make this project student-driven. We wanted all students to feel important and special in creating a piece of art that brought a very serious message…respecting others. The students needed to see that out of nothing (a blank quilt) so much can be accomplished if everyone works together. Much beauty can occur and positive changes can happen ... they are the leaders and ... they can “make a change."

This very concept was used as a medium in promoting another project entitled Olweus. This program is designed to stop bullying and to bring an awareness of the devastating effect it has on individuals. Implementing this program is a continuation of the solidarity in our school community to “make a change."

The programs do not stop there…conversations are taking place to have students make a video with regard to the Respect Quilt and “bullying” program.

Everyone is a part of this school community and, when working together, it becomes healthier, stronger and cohesive for all. We can “make a change."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Commentary: Contribution to 'We Are the 99 Percent'

By Matt Kilbourn
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut
9 November 2011

We are lucky!
We have a healthy family.
I have a good union job and my wife works part-time.
We have benefits.
We are both educated.
We have shelter.
We are the 99%. Thank you for all the Occupy Movements happening around the world! You are being heard.

Community as People

By Matt Kilbourn
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

When you looked tired, we stepped in
   We gave you warmth
   You showered
   You ran laundry

When you were without, we stepped in
   You charged your devices
   You checked e-mails
   You checked the news

When you needed help, we stepped in
   We shared our heat
   We shared our showers
   We shared our laundry

When we need help, you lent your hand
   You helped with yard clean up
   We removed fallen branches
   We drove away the debris

We opened our home, Our home was your home
   Our shared home made you feel human again

We are friends, we are community

- November 2, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Community as a Collaborative Home

By Rachel Holden
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Community as Shelter

By Thomas Norman
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

Community as ...

Shelter. When I think of community it provides me with an image of shelter. A safe haven for those who dwell within the community and call it home. We are all familiar with the definition of home and most can relate to the reality of owning a home or have lived within one. However, there is a greater home that exist outside the comforts of our living rooms and bedrooms. We all dwell in some sort of community. Rather rural, suburban, or urban, or it can be a collection of individuals who share a common interest or some sort of goal. No matter the definition, one can relate a community to a having a family. Typically with family there is level of trust and commitment to the development and nurturing of the family. This concept also exist within the constructs of a community.

A community should embody the same concepts as family based on the premise that a community is a gathering of those who share a common lifestyle. When I think of the ideal community I envision a strong and solid structure capable of protecting its citizens, especially in those times of hardships. Shelter is something we all need to protect us from the natural elements of life. Rather from the rain or the coldness of winter, shelter is a necessity to ensure the safety of the occupants. Within communities there are occupants who are less fortunate than others and those who face difficult life situations. It is during these times that one should be able to lean on the pillars of the shelter that is the community. A community should embody the concept of shared sacrifice and shared responsibility. If one is without, the community should step in to ensure its occupant is provided with what he/she needs. This is what sustains a community and keeps a community viable and strong.  A community must provide a trusting shelter to those who live within it. If one cannot depend on its shelter, he or she will find another and abandon the weakened shelter that was unfit to provide a safe dwelling.

There are many weak communities within our society. We have communities that are falling apart due to the lack of trust in that community. If someone does not believe in the community that they live in, why expect them to stay? If someone is living in a home in which they cannot trust the integrity of the roofing, then why would they stay to witness the roof collapse upon them? The same concept is relatable to communities. If one does not believe in the integrity of their community and does not trust the inhabits, then why should they continue to live and support the community in which they have no trust? Should they wait until the roof collapses on them as well? Should someone dwell within an area that they feel is unsafe and unfit for their children to be raised in? The community must be a shelter. Strong in structure and trusting in integrity. With a trusting shelter, a community can thrive and be a safe and lasting home for generations. I see a community as a roof and the residents as the families that dwell beneath it.

A community can provide many forms of support as long as the residents within the community embody the concept of shared responsibility. Each member of a community must contribute to the durability and strengthening of the community. If someone within the community becomes a weak link in the chain, the very next link must strengthen its hold so the links that follow will not lose integrity. There is strength in numbers and the more families we have dedicated to a community the better chance a community has at sustaining its relevance. Each member of a community must contribute to the strengthening of the shelter. Rather its brick by brick, meaning each member must take the time to develop relationships within the community, that way a genuine trust is develop.

With this trust development comes love. Love for one another is the shelter’s insurance policy. When and if the shelter begins to lose integrity, there will be something tangible that exist to keep the shelter together in the midst of the most troubling of times.  Love is what keeps communities thriving for years and years. Once love is removed, the shelter is no longer insured to its inhabitants. Hatred and negativity will engulf the community and cause those who live within it to leave and seek new shelter within different communities. This is a theme all too familiar with many communities throughout our society. We have to rediscover a love for one another which will translate into our communities, and all those who have lost faith in our communities to return and invest in them.

Community as the Gift We Give Each Other

By Juliet Kapsis
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

You give but little when you give your possessions, it is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
- Kahlil Gibran

Community as ...
Coming Together
Finding Common Ground
Being of the people, by the people, for the people
Shared by all
Common Ownership
Taking responsibility

Inside the Hooker Day Parade in Hartford on 10/22/11, marching w/BeatCityHoops

Community: The origin of the word community comes from the Latin munus, which means the gift, and cum, which means together, among each other. So community literally means to give among each other.”(1)

Community as the Gift We Give Each Other

Rose from Elizabeth Park, Hartford, CT July 2011 by Juliet Kapsis

We have come into a whole new time and place as humans. This is a time and place where we are waking up to our true selves and what our purpose is on this planet. I can only speak for myself when I write that to contribute and feel connected are major goals of mine. Yes, there is much joy to experience in who I am and what it is I am doing. Yes, there is even more joy in sharing that with others, in sharing myself with others. Many readings that have been a part of this class thus far have also mentioned the joys that are shared when one has a sense of belonging with people and place.

In "Warrior Angel," Lily Yeh makes note of what it is to be “filled with a sense of community harmony, pride, and a genuine concern for others,” that this full feeling is what leads to connection, involvement and growth.(2) This is the kind of fullness we are hungry for. This growth is not just for the person involved, but for the city itself. While I was marching with the Beat City Hoop girls at the Hooker Day Parade this past Saturday, I exclaimed out loud that we were witnessing the beginnings of a city falling in love with itself (and my fellow marchers agreed!). This came out spontaneously and then I remembered that awesome Pier Giorgio Di Cicco who poured his little heart out about being creative and taking ownership for that act in one’s living space. “What does love have to do with it?” asks Di Cicco, and he answers that love has everything to do with a city being a living, breathing entity.(3)

What is it that you love about your city? Di Cicco argues that your quality of life depends on the quality of your love. We have many unique opportunities at this point in human evolution and one of these opportunities is ask what is it that we can do to create more harmony and more joy on this planet. What is it that I can do to contribute to my community? Asking questions and taking action is what it’s about. This action can be as simple as taking a walk around your neighborhood and appreciating what it is you are witnessing. I live on the same street as the motivational speaker, Dave O’Brien, from WorkChoice Solutions. Dave has a great way for us to call attention to being in the present moment by asking, what frequency am I on? AM or FM? FM stands for fear mode and AM is for Appreciation Mode. The power of appreciation is enough to uplift yourself and others around you. Contributing to your community is as easy as smiling to others, picking up litter on the side of the road, donating coats in coat drives. Contributing is frequenting local businesses, such as rockin’ out at the tea house Tisane that hosts funky dance nights on Wednesdays.

This idea of community as the gift that we give each other is one that is a celebration and recognition of contribution. We all have limitless gifts to contribute – there’s no need to hold back anymore. The reason why this idea of community matters is that it’s simple. There are no rules to learn and memorize, you don’t have to spend hours finding minimal pairs in Swedish or putting together a chart of the IPA characters for Polish. You don’t have to go any further than whatever it is that makes you, You. It’s awesome to read the tweets of a Waterbury-based music-promoter, DWI aka Dartz Wit Intellect, as well as those from other Nutmeggers promoting what they are passionate about. It’s fabulous to have a cup of java at JoJo’s on Pratt Street, while contemplating a visit to the Wadsworth or Real Art Ways. Or bring a friend and share rides on 97 year old carousel horses in Bushnell Park. All you have to do is be you and do what you like to do. It just gets bigger from there, because once we get a taste of what it feels like to be in an area that is loved by its citizens, we’ll desire more and more of that feeling of connection and contribution. It’s a gift we get to give to each other.

Calder’s Stegosaurus outside of Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford, CT, by Juliet Kapsis

(3) Municipal Mind: Manifestos for the Creative City by Pier Giorgio Di Cicco

Community as Nurture

By Eileen Ahlquist
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

When I think of community, a metaphor that comes to my mind is “nurture." Maybe it was my being part of a crazy, dysfunctional family that led me seeking community to connect with as a growing child and seeking spirit. Perhaps it is the bonds with people or places that have fulfilled my various needs at different times in my life when my own self is not enough. To survive as a human, we need nurturing  ... for our physical bodies, our developing minds and our spirited souls. Within community, there lies a foster-mother as a source of nurture for those facets of existence.

Nurture can be defined as: to feed and protect; to support and encourage; to bring up, train, educate. First, consider: to feed. It is our first and most basic need for survival. While we initially get this need met from our mothers or parents, “feeding” and eating becomes primary in many community aspects. Sometimes it becomes a social event or sometimes it is someone in need receiving food. It could be dining at an event or celebration, baking cookies for the neighbor, “breaking-bread” with a gathering of friends, cooking for someone(s) in distress, or the helping to provide food through donations to food banks or serving in a soup kitchen. Food and feeding is probably the most common shared community experience, no matter what culture you live in. It is a central theme of connection and providing.

While “feed” may immediately relate to food, there are other important ways we need to be fed. We are all in need of being fed love - whether it is attention, affection, words or touch. Any developing human needs this as much as food and we receive love throughout life from all over our community. Aside of our family, love can come from neighbors, daycare providers, teachers, friends, lovers, strangers, churches & leaders. Again, regardless of what culture you are from, love is another strand of food for a developing human.

Protection could be considered the literal shelter we need from elements. If someone(s) is lacking this basic need, there are often places in the community to get help. Even if one is self-providing, there is reliance on trades-people to create this for us. Protection comes as another form of nurture in community as we confide in and trust our friends, form our neighborhood watches and have emergency services like the police and ambulances to keep us safe.

When we look at the rest of what nurture means - to support and encourage; bring up, train, educate, it is so evident how much nurturing we receive from community. The primary institutions that help “grow” us, guide us, teach us, love us. Schools and churches are full of people and ideas that shape and inspire us as we develop. As we extend beyond institutions, there are clubs such as boy/girl scouts, mentors, elders, teachers, friends, gyms, associations, therapists, and 12-step groups ... just to skim the surface.

When we think of nurture, it is natural to just think about your parents and family or your partner or spouse. But, the reality is that we receive nurturing everywhere. I don’t think we would label it as that, but consider how much (more) of life has been nurtured by community. It makes me realize, even more, how connected we are. It is a natural thread between us all to feel compassion and help or give to someone who doesn’t have basic need for surviving. When we see someone suffer, we suffer. It is instinctual to guide and help younger people. For some people who either don’t have family or are not close to family, community becomes their kin and source of nurturing. I know when I was growing up, the whole neighborhood looked out for each other’s kids.

While community may not be as immediate as it once was, we still have sources of nurture within it. Nowadays, people in some neighborhoods are less social and sometimes barely know each other. In addition, internet technology has replaced a lot of human interaction, but conversely, can make communication quicker and many more people available easier and faster. However, even with these changes, community will always be a nurturer. Whether a basic need is at risk, if we want to learn something, we are joining a religion or just looking for a group to share a hobby, we know community is there for us. (Even when we don’t know this, there is community that can link us to community!) It could be that family is not an option or a need could extend beyond what our family can offer. However we need, community can often help us or do for us what we sometimes cannot do for ourselves.

Creativity as ...

By jen pradhan
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

Creativity as one.
Creativity as me.
Creativity as curiosity.
Creativity as imagination.
Creativity as wonder.
Creativity as failing.
Creativity as succeeding.
Creativity as love.
Creativity as action.
Creativity as thinking.
Creativity as never giving up.
Creativity as always going.
Creativity as whole.
Creativity as a child.
Creativity as a teenager.
Creativity as you.
Creativity as positive.
Creativity as learning.
Creativity as rest.
Creativity as unique.
Creativity as believing.
Creativity as patience.
Creativity as beauty.
Creativity as not so pretty.
Creativity as amazement.
Creativity as innocence.
Creativity as an adult.
Creativity as the truth.
Creativity as possibility of the impossible.
Creativity as magic.
Creativity as out of the ordinary.
Creativity as six billion.

I didn’t know where to start to write about creativity and about my reflection because I don’t think I would ever be able to stop. A few weeks ago, I couldn’t describe it and now I cannot stop talking about it. And I couldn’t pick one of the metaphors so I decided to create my own.

When I think of creativity and this class, I think of it as an on going process .... Creativity comes easy to us when we are seven because we let our imagination run wild .... That can still happen if we stay connected with one another and engage in our communities. No one really loses touch with their inner child; I believe some just choose not to acknowledge it. Creativity is inevitable. It doesn’t and cannot stop. We just seem to be out of touch with creativity, but don’t realize what we are capable of when it comes to creativity. Creativity keeps us going, young or old, small or big, good or bad, from the beginning, to the middle, all the way to the end. We wouldn’t be where we are without creativity. We have evolved into the people we are today because of creativity and creativity can only keep going because of people.

I started off the “Creativity as …” metaphor with "Creativity as one." When we come into this world, we are connected to nature as one ... and then we separate ourselves as individuals. And through creativity, imagination, thinking, learning, failing, trying again, succeeding, never giving up, believing in the impossible and making those things happen, stepping out of the box, and connecting with one another, we have become over SIX BILLION people in the world and we’re going stronger than ever. We make ends meet and have survived this long because of creativity. It’s pretty magical. 

Community as Contributing to the Social Playground

By Eileen K. Boisseau
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut
I imagine my community as shared space where people can gather. We an use this playground in lots of various ways.

Thinking about community from my 7-year-old self perspective, my community includes my friends and me out on the playground having fun. We share in playing lots of different games, but one of our favorites is softball. We each get a chance to get up at bat and sometimes we hit a home run, or just a single, and may not get a hit at all, but we cheer each other on nonetheless. And we have fun! When we play in the outfield, each of our positions is different and we see the game being played from different perspectives. We chatter it up out on the field cheering each other on. To play the best game, we communicate our intentions and goals. Every once in awhile the coach advises us on a better strategy, and we brainstorm our ideas as well. We are a team and share in contributing our best efforts, and celebrating each others individual styles which all come together in creating a productive, happy softball community. But even if we are on the playground and not playing a team sport, there is still a lot of social interaction, and a lot of spontaneity and energy abounding.

This idea of community is all-inclusive and celebrates diversity. Through allowing and encouraging a friend or team member or a member of our social community to pitch in their ideas from whatever angle their perspective derives from just adds to the colorful mix of creating new ideas.

What I have learned is that reserving judgment about one’s style can serve to complement the group. So no matter what the social arena is the idea of community matters in providing the space for the germination of ideas and sharing in the fertilizing and the shaping of something with more robust and colorful results.

If we adopted the idea of equal playing time and equitable contribution in the community playground at hand – whether it be social policy changes such as affordable access to healthcare and housing, or coming together to help restore a neighbor’s house, or spending time creating a mural, the more voices that are heard and the more diverse the hands that shape it, the more of an impact we can make in enhancing our communities. The best part of all is that I think the social playground would be a lot more fun.

Community is ...

By Nicole Milne
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

I chose this tree to depict "Community is ..." because it shows that there are many things that hold a community together that are below the surface. For me, I really enjoy where we have chosen to raise our family. We have a great neighborhood that is always there to lend a hand, and help out whatever family needs it. With that kind of togetherness we end up flourishing in our lives together. We all work together for the greater good and that is what I feel my community is.

Crowdsourcing Art (and Food) at Billings Forge in Hartford, Connecticut

Potluck Slideshow
Wed. Nov. 16 | 6:30 pm
Hartford, Connecticut
An evening of community, food & art. Potluck Slideshow is a crowd-sourced slideshow of artworks by visual artists, graphic designers, fashion designers, performance, conceptual and multi-media artists, garden designers and more, presented along with a communal potluck meal.

All artists are invited to submit to the slideshow and a prospectus may be obtained by contacting: The Potluck meal and Slideshow presentation are open to all guests. General admission to the event is a dish that serves four people or $2.00 at the door without a dish.
Deadline for submissions: Fri. Nov. 11

Billings Forge Community Works:

Community as Progress

By Charlene Folston
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

I feel that progress is extremely important in a community. It is needed in order to move forward and advance in life. With progression you can build on your strengths and overcome your weaknesses. First, it is important that you know what your strengths and weaknesses are. I think that every community should have goals and objectives set in place so they are continuously working towards the outcomes. Each person in the community should have the same goals in mind. If there is no progress in a community there will not be any happiness because everyone would just be settling with what they have and not working towards making their current situations any better. You have to always strive to move forward in life. I would love to live in a community where everyone helped each other progress in life and worked to together to improve the look of the environments they live in. I do not like when there are negative views about a certain community and I see that no one is trying to make improvements.

I have learned that communities need strong foundation to build on in order to progress. Each person in the community is the foundation so it is up to them to make sure that it is a strong one. There are so many different issues in every community. I have also learned that the people in these communities do want a change; however, most of them do not know how to take the necessary steps towards progression. All they need is someone to help them and show them that they do have the resources that they are looking for. Education also plays an important role when it comes to progression. Learn about new ideas and ways that you can change your situation. You should know the process of progression and the steps that you need to take in order to achieve your goal.  It is important that you understand what you are fighting for. I feel that each person should make progress a priority of their own. It is everyone’s responsibility to contribute and help facilitate. We all can make a difference by using our own skills and various connections.

When you have a team of people that work together for the greater good for everyone as a whole it makes all the difference. It takes a strong group of devoted and dedicated people to change a community. You can’t just want a change for yourself. Your success depends on the people around you. It is impossible to progress on your own. The only way you can progress is when everyone is on one accord and has the same goals. If there is division in a community it will make it harder to advance and live a more comfortable life. You can tell when a community is progressing just by the people you see. I believe that progress has a domino effect, and once you begin to notice improvements in one area it will then transfer to next goal that need to be achieved.  Why not make the world a better place for everyone, instead of a better place for you?

Community as Agriculture

By Michelle Hypolite
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

I grew up watching my mother garden for most of my life which has given me an appreciation for the labor put into the process of creating something that yields much, something that all people can enjoy, and an activity that brings us closer to nature. My mom would spend hours tending her garden, toiling, planting, fertilizing, weeding and rearranging. I never realized the effort it took to keep her garden so beautiful until I moved out and wished to create a garden of my own.

I started from nothing. When I first dug into the earth I had no idea that beneath the grass lied rocks, broken glass, and all sorts of trash that would first needed to be removed before I was able to even think about planting. After the soil was cleared I realized that I could not just plant any which way, I would have to plan, create and design so that my garden would make sense for me, both atheistically and practically. Some plants needed more sun, while others should be placed in the front because they could be overshadowed by taller ones. There was a lot of effort placed in prepping before I could actually put one plant in the ground. Somewhere along the way I understood that it takes a lot of work to enjoy the benefits of a garden. I was tired, dirty, and hot, but I knew that the end product would be worth it. A project that I thought would take a day turned into over a week. By the time the last bush was in the ground I was exhausted. But the work wasn't over yet. I had my garden but something was missing. I needed stones and accents and all sorts of other additions to make the garden into something special.

I feel like if we look at society as agriculture, and we are its tenders, then we can create something extraordinary, too. But first we must prep as I prepped my little garden. Prepare our society by first cleansing of waste and trash (both literally and figuratively). We must start with something fresh and plan its design, then begin to sow into our society, while still allowing it to grow organically. This is the foundation. Things like a good education for all children, regardless of socio-economic status. Good health care as well. We need to plan for the future of our society to flourish  and give back to us as we put into it. Then we can add our accents with the arts and music to make it beautiful, creating something wonderful. And of course, like in any garden we must work diligently to maintain it through weeding and daily maintenance. It is hard work, but the results are magnificent and we will all take ownership and love the fruits of our labor.

Community as Creating Together

By Kathy Glass
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

In my neighborhood there is a group of children ranging from the ages of 4 to 10 years old. My husband and I call them the posse – a gang of “wild” kids. They’re never accompanied by adults or their parents. The group is composed of 8 to 9 members on any given day, and they’re always together. On many occasions they congregate in my backyard whether it’s to play, to create, to learn, to talk, to visit my dog. They come for a variety of reasons, but they always come together. Their presence is one of the things that makes the neighborhood unique – it’s a community of children – and their voices fill the streets day after day. I am so lucky to be a part of their community, even if I’m just the lady who lets them play in her backyard.

This group has taught me that community is defined by its members and their individual gifts, talents, quirks, uniqueness. The members of this community include:
  • The leader, age 10, (sometimes she’s considered a little bossy, but boy does she keep everyone on task!) and the performer. She sings, she dances, and she’s amazingly talented at wiffle ball. She wants to throw the Frisbee constantly and she’s loud and full of life, brimming you might say. She is a leader in the sense that she leads the group in their discussions, activities, play and time spent in the yard.
  • The nurturer and best friend to Fester (my dog), age 5. She was afraid of Fester, a 15-pound Chihuahua mix, when she was younger. She would stand on one side of the yard where Fester couldn’t reach her and scream every time he looked her way. This lasted for about a year until she finally worked up the courage to come from the other side of the yard to pet his tail: “Can I hold his tail?” she’d ask. After months of tail holding, she and Fester bonded. She decided that Fester was no threat and that he would listen to her if she wanted him to. This blossomed into a friendship and now when the kids come over to play, she spends her time holding Fester’s lead and petting him. One of the little boys in the group is afraid of Fester so she has taken it upon herself to help make him feel comfortable when in his presence. Just the other day, she said to me, “It’s okay if he is scared of Fester now. I was when I was his age, so when he grows up like me, he won’t be afraid anymore.”
  • The mother-figure and caregiver to the little ones, age 10. She always has the youngest member of the group in her arms. She is attentive and tapped into their needs. She has a brilliant memory and cares deeply about her peers. At times she is quiet and reserved, not interacting but observing. She seems to internalize everything.
  • The free spirit and artist, age 7. She is always in her own head. She connects with the group when they are part of her vision, whatever that may be. Her interests include eating herbs from my garden and learning about what they are, how they’re used, why you can eat them and not other plants, and she also enjoys watering all of my plants daily. She regularly leads the group in the garden about what you can and cannot eat and what each item is. Many times she branches off from the group to do her own thing. She often begins talking and then in the middle of a phrase she’ll trail off and begin to mumble, lost in her head. She becomes frustrated easily when the other members of the group do not understand her, or are not connecting with her. A picture of her art is below.

  • The daughters of our new neighbor, ages 6 and 8. The family just moved in this summer so I’m not sure of the girls’ names, but they too are a part of the community. The youngest is outgoing and tenacious. She demands to be heard and is quick to bring her own contributions to the group. The oldest is enthusiastic about almost everything. If there is something happening, she’s a part of it. She enjoys being engaged and with the rest of the group.
    The baby, age 4. The youngest member of the group, he is terrified of Fester. He is constantly in the arms of another member and enjoys being the baby.
  • The inquisitive thinker, age 9, asking questions constantly. She moved just over two months ago, so the community has lost a member. She loved helping us plant our garden. We planted peppers, tomatoes and bean plants over the summer together. She was fascinated by the process of growth, monitoring the plants’ progress along the way. Nature seemed to excite her. She once made a neighborhood of houses out of white computer paper for the ants near my garden and called them ant houses. It rained the day after she made the ant houses (little tents of paper), but when she came over the next day to check on them, wouldn’t you know there were ants under the paper.
There is never any parent supervision when the kids come to play in my yard. The only adults present are either me or my husband. In the uninhibited play I’ve witnessed and been a part of, I’ve learned so much. It’s taught me that to maintain a strong community the members must ...

Care about each other.
Explore together.
Experience together.
Play together.
Help each other overcome our fears.
Grow together.
Teach each other and learn from one another.
Dream together.
Scream together.
Eat together.
Laugh together, and often.
Consider all possibilities.
Celebrate individual expression.
Move together.

This community has taught me that we must continue to adapt, engage, wonder and, most importantly, laugh. They have taught me that community is most importantly a group of people creating something together, whether a shared goal or experience. That it breathes based on the passions of its members and that it can do great things for the individuals it is composed of. Community helps us to grow as only we can with the help from each other. It teaches us an honest true sense of belonging.

Community as a Form of Expression

By Will Carnes
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

I came up with community as a form of expression because I thought this metaphor was really important. A community is a group of people living in one place, by definition. To me that definition is plain and paints a picture of just people living their own lives, not interacting with each other. I believe every community should get together at least once a month to interact and express themselves whether its through music, dance, story telling or a party. Coming up with community-based projects is a great way to build connections and interact. It also builds a sense of accomplishment, the community gets a feeling that they accomplished something good. I believe this builds confidence in being able to take on even more challenging tasks in life.

In order for a community to be able to express themselves they need to make a change. A community that is plain and ordinary is one where neighbors do not interact, merely just live their lives in their homes and go about their own business. Change needs to be made and a leader needs to emerge so he/she can engage the community. The leader should be enthusiastic so community members get hyped up and excited to make a change and be proactive.

Once the community is engaged to make a change they can begin to communicate with each other about ideas to be creative in the community. Setting up town gatherings is a good way to voice ideas. It doesn’t have to be formal it could be a block party where community members can come socialize while sharing ideas of what they could improve in the community.

After setting up ideas of how to change the community for the better, its time to take action. A goal is hopefully going to be reached and members of the community are working together to get to that goal. Relationships are being built during the process and trust is being formed. These are essential tools to form a productive, creative, and expressive community. Before you know it the community that was once plain and distant from each other now consider each other family.

Working together as one unit or a family to create positive projects in your community will create a sense of self worth and happiness. Helping people always makes me feel good because I made a positive difference. The people really appreciate it and remember that you helped them. Someday they will help you when you are in need. Everyone can start by helping people in their community and then branch out and help other communities.
I also wanted to share a video that I think is pure creativity. I found this video about a year and half ago and it's a couple of guys on the streets of Oakland dancing in the rain. What struck me as incredible was they were freestyle dancing on the street for fun. They weren't doing in front of a crowd for attention or on a stage. They were just trying to express their creativity. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. They have pretty incredible moves! I talk about expressing yourself in your community, I thought this was a good example.

Community as Entertainment

By Marco Vernacatola
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

I feel that a fitting metaphor for community would be community as entertainment. When people are looking to unwind after a grueling day of work or school, the first thing that this person is likely to do is turn on the TV. The television, for many, is the easiest and most efficient place to go to for entertainment; if you want laughs, music, political talk, or sports, it’s all at your fingertips. The problem with this is that what’s going on in the television isn’t actually there.

This is why the community is an important alternate, and some would say more fulfilling, way to find your entertainment. Everyone in the community has some sort of talent to offer; this can be a good sense of humor and wit, skill with an instrument, or a heated passion for politics. This is all something that can be found on the television, but when this is on the television, it becomes distorted because of its impersonal nature. And the viewers who watch this can only ever be a viewer and never a participant.

As someone who plays an instrument moderately well, there is nothing more exciting than making noise with a group of equally inept musicians in my community, with no aspirations of recording anything or performing live. I’ve seen many bands live, big and small, and jamming with a few friends, making the most horrible noise one can imagine, is still more than exciting than seeing a giant live show or watching music videos and live performances on TV.

The greatest triumph of the community, however, is the fact that it is not an expensive proposition. To see Roger Water’s The Wall live in 2010, I paid $180 to see performers that resembled ants playing a band’s “greatest hits”. On the other hand, it didn’t cost me anything to get together with a few friends for an improvisational jam. The same can be said of art; why spend all your life enjoying only the artists deemed important by the mainstream when there are hundreds of artists in the community who can make meaningful and important pieces of art, regardless of the artist’s popularity?

The sad thing that happens to the community is that people are so focused on celebrities and nationally important figures, that the talents of those around them are ignored in order to continue the hero worship of some person they may never even meet. However, the people in the community are capable of becoming celebrities in their own little circle if the people of the community come together to share and embrace each other’s talents.

A friend of mine, a very talented art student, regularly needs to free up space in his art room, requiring him to get rid of his older paintings he feels are primitive at this point, which I quickly offer to take. As someone who is by no means an art expert, I am as moved by his paintings as I am a van Gogh. And good luck buying an original van Gogh.

In my mind, my friend is as important an artist as anyone in the art world, past or present, and he lives five minutes away from me. This is what makes the community important; it offers what everything else offers, except it is unique in the sense that you can easily become a participant in all the shenanigans.

Community as a Family

By Elizabeth Matte
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

When I think of a community I think of a group of people living in the same area as one. I especially think of this when I think of communities in the city. When people live in close proximity under poor conditions I think it can bring people closer together. They can unite and become a family. This is important because if people are living in harsh conditions then need as much support as they can. They need to have positive people in their lives that inspire them. If people in a community unite as a family and can inspire one another than they could provide hope and courage for people that are in extremely bad situations. Their inspirations can help someone get out of a dangerous situation or just help them move forward in general.

I have learned that when people live in a large city with thousands of people, it is harder for them to make lasting relationships. A lot of people that live in a city often find themselves alone. This can lead to irrational behavior or thoughts and often results in suicide. I think it’s important for a person, not just in a city, to have a few close friends that live somewhat close by. The support of others plays a huge role in our lives and can be beneficial for a person.

If people treat their community as a home and the people in it as a family then they will respect it more. They will take care of their environment more and treat others with respect. They might volunteer in the community and organize local events for people in the area. This will also allow people to interact and develop their relationships with one another. It could strengthen relationships and create new ones. This would be especially good for children in the area. It is important for adults to be involved as well but I think children have a lot more free time than adults especially in the summer. If a group of people organized an event for children in the summer it may help keep them off the streets. This could be extremely beneficial for their future and the future of the community. If bonds are created at a young age and taking care of one’s community is stressed, then children will grow to work with and appreciate one another. They will have something to cherish when they are older. These lessons will also help them in other areas of their lives.

Establishing the thought that community is like a family will be really beneficial for all communities. If you think of others as your family you will create a deeper bond. I think it could help if you encounter problems with another person, because you couldn’t just walk away from them if you get into a fight. It might make you work harder at your relationship and can create a lasting relationship. I have come across many people so far in my life. I think if we all had the idea that we were family I would have had longer relationships with certain people. I think everyone needs support and every community needs love. I think there aren’t enough safe places in the world especially in the inner city.