Building Community: From Empty Spaces to Meeting Places

[editor’s note: A new feature that we’ll have here on the DVC blog are posts from Steering Committee members. The viewpoints presented in these points are those of the individual and not necessarily those of the Downtown Voices Coalition or the Steering Committee.]

With all the discussion groups, symposiums and conferences given on the subject, it seems the best places to create a strong community might just be the coffee house, dog park or potluck table. My own “Building Community Cinema” series is rooted in seeing a movie, but with a location conducive to an after-film chat and chew.

This column explores the roots of place, and how place can separate or enhance a community.

“Building Community: From Empty Spaces to Meeting Places” by Julian Dobson

How will community be built in the 21st century? If you want to know the lie of the land, sometimes you must literally see how the land lies and what human beings have done to it.

Ancient settlements were connected by trade routes and divided by fault lines: valleys, rivers and hills were means meeting or contested territory. This week I was in Luton, where the barriers and bridges, physical and psychological, were obvious – sometimes painfully so.

But just as physical places can create psychological barriers, they can also help bring them down.

Looking around Luton and listening to the stories of two men whose work is to build bridges between faiths and cultures, I was reminded of the kaleidoscopic complexities of building communities. But sitting with them and chatting and observing the trust between them, I came away optimistic that we can devise meetings of body and mind that can move beyond an ubiquitous blandness into a serious engagement with people’s real selves.

Read the entire article here.

Steve Weiss
Executive Director, No Festival Required
Steering Committee, Downtown Voices Coalition

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