Saturday marked the first workshop held by Boundaries and Bridges to promote collaboration, networking, and education about the uses of Creative Placemaking and opportunities made possible by incorporating the arts to promote a sustainable community; this particular workshop focusing on the use and importance of food specifically. Sixteen participants attended this event, that all either are or have been working individually or collaboratively on many different projects, businesses, and community building ideas for the city of Chester. Lead by the Boundaries and Bridges co-chairs, Dean Sharon Meagher and Devon Walls, the first of a series of Creative Placemaking workshops began at 9:00am and ended at 5:00pm. The day included first getting to know each other with fun icebreakers. The group was then addressed by Judy Wicks: owner and entrepreneur of Philadelphia’s “White Dog Café”, “The Black Cat Café” and author of the Nautilus Book Award winning, Good Morning, Beautiful Business. By sharing her own journey and experience, Wicks showed the importance of the arts and cultural industry in every community to provide sustainability, growth both economically and individually, and long term benefits for every community that comes together using the arts. She shared both the challenges and successes that she has encountered throughout her work as a community leader and activist, which allowed every individual present at the workshop to identify, relate, and share their own work, experiences, challenges and successes with each other.
During the lunch round table discussion each person was asked to share their experiences, hopes, and needs for the community and city of Chester. Fresh, local, and organic salmon and shrimp sandwiches, blue cheese pasta salad, and cream cheese and fresh fruit desserts were provided by Abu, owner of Chester restaurant and catering company: “Abu the Juice Man”, (located at 510 Avenue of the States, Chester, Pennsylvania). There were some moments where difficult topics needed to be addressed by individuals of differing backgrounds and perspectives. Yet this event allowed a safe, open, and productive way to have those conversations. Each one of us has lived an individual life, had both positive and negative experiences, and is continually growing within ourselves and with others. Yet when we come together, discuss the positive and the negative that we either have experienced alone, or together; it’s possible to see where we are alike, and to better understand how our differences are assets, rather than negatives. No one wants boundaries: we all want bridges. We all have similar goals, similar desires, and similar hopes for the future. Every person in that room was there because they have a desire to use their own talents, gifts, and abilities for the benefit of our community of Chester, Pennsylvania.
This workshop embodied the importance of working together as a group, and as one community. At the end of the day, each participant was asked to put up anonymous posts of their personal take away from this experience. Every post radiated hope, positivity, and inspiration to move forward with not only original projects that were in process when the day began; but for new projects and ideas strengthened by learning what others are working on, finding commonalities in each other’s work, and seeing ways that we can all work together as a community; to succeed as one, instead of many separated parts.