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Houston Grand Opera (HGO) administers the Home and Place project, which serves to foster a strong sense of community identity through community-building programs within three Houston area neighborhoods, in collaboration with Neighborhood Centers Inc. (NCI) and Houston Independent School District (HISD).

ArtPlace spoke with Kiana Day, Home and Place Program Director for the Houston Grand Opera, about the project and the collaborations that make it possible:

ARTPLACE: Who are your partners?

We are honored to partner with three NCI locations and three HISD schools, and grateful to the following community organizations and teaching artists who lend their expertise to our projects and activities:

• Rice Center for Education/School Literacy and Culture Project – Baker Ripley, Neff, and Ripley House
• Writers in the Schools (WITS) – Baker Ripley, Harbach Ripley, and Ripley House
• Emanuelee Bean, spoken work artist/teaching artist – Harbach Ripley and Ripley House
• Stephanie Handal, teaching artist – Baker Ripley
• Heather Bause, collage artist – Baker Ripley
• Terry Garner, Urban Harvest/community gardener – Kashmere Gardens
• Alisa White, Create an Opera director – Garden Villas/Kashmere Gardens
• Janice Freeman, visual artist – Garden Villas/Kashmere Gardens

ARTPLACE: What is the most rewarding thing about your collaborations?

The most rewarding part of collaborating with our partners has been hearing directly from community members about how Home and Place projects are impacting their awareness of building community identity and pride. Many have begun to embrace the unique characteristics of their environment that tell the story of who they are.

Conversely, the toughest part of collaborating was building the trust of our partners in our mission to “show up, listen, act, and repeat” within their communities. Many of our partners have had bad experiences in the past with organizations making promises to impact the community, doing one good deed, and then vanishing to never be seen or heard from again. Because Home and Place not only partners through programming but also makes a conscious effort to maintain an active relationship with each partner site, the project has become embraced as an essential member of their community families.

ARTPLACE: What advice would you give to those having trouble making a collaboration work?

The best advice to share with organizations that may experience challenges making a collaborative work is stated above: “show up, listen, act, and repeat”. Once collaborators recognize that a program has the potential to make a difference for them, the door that was once barely cracked will open more swiftly with acceptance.

PHOTO: A senior participating in the WITS program at Harbach Ripley.

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