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Collinwood Rising is a collaborative effort to transform North Shore Collinwood, a neighborhood on the east side of Cleveland, by activating the growing grassroots art movement taking place in the community. The initiative aims to combat urban vacancy through art interventions, including converting vacant spaces into an artist-inspired playground, a performing arts incubator and artist live/work space and commercial storefronts.

Northeast Shores Development Corporation is leading this multi-organization initiative. ArtPlace spoke with Brian Friedman to discuss how the Collinwood Rising placemaking initiative is changing the way Northeast Shores does business.

ARTPLACE: Is there a new challenge that engaging in creative placemaking presents for you, your organization and the artists who work with you? Are there new skills required?

FRIEDMAN: For us, Collinwood Rising is a remarkable experiment in collaboration. Throughout our organization’s history, Northeast Shores has engaged in strategic partnerships with peer organizations and with our residents and workers, a process that has been fluid and organic and central to our mission. With Collinwood Rising, we are expanding those partnerships in a short timeframe, and we believe the stakes for success are very high.

ArtPlace’s generosity in funding Collinwood Rising is providing us with an opportunity to take our collaborative efforts to a new level, with more partners engaged in more revitalization efforts and with even more opportunity for everyday individuals to leave their creative mark on the neighborhood. The funding has provided us with a unique opportunity to not only invest in bricks-and-mortar projects but to empower residents and workers to play a bigger and more direct role in directing the course of the neighborhood. We feel a very strong sense of responsibility to do this well … and to do it quickly.

While this process has been both interesting and rewarding, the formalization and cultivation of meaningful collaborative efforts is also a time-consuming effort. Our organization wants to nourish relationships and make them meaningful for all participants in the project, whether those partners are helping us imagine what an artist-inspired playground might include or what type of pop-up activities will have the biggest benefit for our local businesses. We want people to feel like their voices are being heard. We want to encourage hundreds of people to increase their level of investment, pride and passion for the North Shore Collinwood neighborhood. This is not a process that can be rushed. At the same time, we need to deliver results quickly so that we create a sense of real possibility around the initiative.

As a result of receiving the ArtPlace award, there has also been an unexpected and welcomed increase in private interest in our community, including from a prominent local restauranteur who is exploring opening approximately 5 restaurants concurrently in our arts district in 2013. All of this investment has been incredible for our community, but it also contributes to our already aggressive calendar. Lending our support to nurture private interests, while simultaneously implementing ArtPlace, while also maintaining and expanding our ongoing efforts to revitalize vacant housing and storefronts, makes for busy days … which could become a challenge for our staff and for our partners without a great deal of care.

But what a problem to have! For “Rust Belt” neighborhoods like ours, the idea of “too much” investment, “too much” excitement around the potential here – that is an incredible turn-around that speaks to the promise of the entire Great Lakes region. While we may need to adjust to new expectations and a new list of deliverables, the potential rewards are incredibly great.

 

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