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Glass House Collective is a Chattanooga-based non-profit founded to bring life back to Glass Street and Glass Street back to life. GHC gathers talent from in and around the community to develop creative projects of all kinds with the ultimate goal of revitalizing the historic Glass Street commercial corridor.  ArtPlace spoke with Katherine Currin, director of Glass House Collective, about the biggest issue GHC has faced and the ways they have dealt with it.

ARTPLACE: What was the thorniest issue you’ve faced to date?

CURRIN: One of the greatest challenges we’re faced with is how to create a story of change that’s honest and really reflects the essence of this community. Essence of place is created, in large part, by the way people live, work, and play together. Those actions are influenced by our values and what we believe about a place – it’s past, present, and future.

Our priority has been to remind people that there is legitimate vibrancy and vitality in the area. We’re saying, ‘Look! There are real and valuable assets here, that can’t be recreated anywhere else.’

This is building confidence in the community and influencing the way people act and interact with this community. By influencing those actions, we are creating a story of change that’s true to its essence.

It is a process that starts and is sustained by residents taking ownership. So, we’ve been strategic about using the resources we have in ways that compel ownership and instill a desire to be a part of delivering the community’s vision for change.

If we took control, or if residents believed we were taking control, it would eventually disconnect the essence of this place. The last thing we want to do is squelch the wonderful diversity that can already be found on Glass Street.

ARTPLACE: How have you prevailed over this issue?

CURRIN: We hoped from the beginning that our enthusiasm for Glass Street’s potential would be heard and reciprocated by our neighbors. We hosted ten community workshops that engaged over 150 individuals who either live or work within a half-mile of Glass Street. These workshops were an opportunity for the community to bounce ideas around and provide feedback about the future of the community. The ideas and input shared during these workshops are the basis for a set of strategies and recommendations that range from larger capital-intensive projects to smaller improvements that can be implemented over the course of a weekend with less than $2,500.

We want residents and partners, both present and future, to see the spectrum of ways in which we can all participate in this story of change.

Our How-To Guide is allowing us to start small with the community. The How-To Guide is broken down into nine small, yet meaningful projects that may be championed by Glass Street residents. Each section briefly outlines the goals for the projects as well as giving step-by-step directions and a list of necessary materials, tools, time, funding and collaborators. So far, the How-To Guide has reached over 200 people.

Working teams of residents and supporters of the community are collaborating to implement the projects outlined in the How-To Guide. Their enthusiasm and commitment is already attracting new partners to aid in specific projects within the guide as well as some of the larger, more capital-intensive projects.

Public Art Chattanooga and Allied Arts are providing core support for a temporary, collaborative sculpture. Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise and the Trust for Public Land have committed resources to transform a vacant lot into a pocket park for the community. Because partners like these are noticeably investing time and energy into this area, residents are much more enthusiastic to do the same.

This renewed sense of confidence and ownership is helping create a story of change that’s connected to the essence of this place.

 

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