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The Creatives in Communities

March 22, 2018

By: Lydia Hooper of Fountain Visual Communications

Lydia Hooper of Fountain Visual Communications will be running a session at the Southwestern Creative Placemaking Leadership Summit (April 6 & 7, Denver, CO) we caught up with her to get the low down on why you should come along.

 

My session and what participants will get out of it

I'm facilitating a panel of creatives and we will discuss what we are all doing here in Denver to address the rapid growth and subsequent increase in disparity and displacement among residents over the past few years in particular. Because I work with community based organizations and live in a rapidly changing neighborhood myself, I have become very concerned about how our city is changing demographically and therefore culturally. I know creatives often play an important role in transforming neighborhoods. Often as a result of this transformation, neighborhoods become too expensive for many residents to continue to live in them. Creatives are also affected too, as many of us are in the same boat of struggling to get by. I had the pleasure of graphically recording a discussion about this in Denver last summer. This year I am excited about this opportunity to have creatives lead a discussion for no one else better understands our quandary. My hope is that other creatives who come to this session will be inspired to lead similar discussions in their communities. Anyone else who comes along will learn more about how to best support artists and creatives as we grapple with meeting both our own needs and the needs of our communities.

 

Why I care about creative placemaking

Culture and place are so intimately connected that I think anyone engaged in creating one is by default creating the other. I am deeply interested in both, and through my work I seek to weave them more closely together. My creative work usually involves helping communities of one kind or another use creative mindsets and methods to make their own pursuits more relevant and effective. (It's worth mentioning here that just like I think the concept of "place" encompasses about everything - outdoor environments, work cultures, social communities, even our bodies. I also use the term "creative" or "creatives" very broadly to indicate activities and people engaged in those activities that simply seek to generate anything new - ideas, relationships, behaviors, things, etc.) I started out very interested in creating work that inspired people to honor and respect natural environments. Over time my work has led me towards a different approach: I now believe that cultivating human-centered cultures within organizations and communities is integral to cultivating places that are thriving socially, economically, and environmentally. So my work now is more about using visuals as a powerful tool for this dual cultivation.

 

Why I think it is important that this regional conference is being held in Denver.

I've lived in Denver for the past nine years and frankly it is no longer the city I moved to. I've looked at the data and our population has grown as much in the past five years as it did in the previous fifteen. This is the result of federal, state and municipal factors, such as our national economic recession, the change in marijuana policy, and transit oriented development. But it is felt hyper-locally. My own neighborhood, for example, was a majority minority community when I moved into it six years ago, and now that is no longer the case. A neighborhood elementary school that my son went to closed last year on account of low attendance (Denver Public Schools has a choice program that allows families to select schools they want their child to attend). I don't resent the people moving here, I try to be hopeful that they will contribute to our city in positive ways. But I'm concerned that the changes are happening so fast that many really don't understand what we're losing as more and more former residents can't afford to live anywhere in the city and are pushed out to surrounding ones. I think our city's diversity is an important part of our history and identity, from Native tribes to emancipated slaves to leaders in the Chicano movement. It's getting harder and harder to see that heritage being truly valued.

 

About my organization

I run my own company, Fountain Visual Communications, which provides primarily design and illustration services for government agencies, nonprofit organizations, foundations, and other mission-based organizations. I help these organizations and the networks they are a part of better understand and communicate about the complex issues they are working on, specializing in data visualization and graphic recording. By working with existing organizations, rather than just developing my own socially engaged art projects, I not only further and build upon the efforts already taking place but I also have the opportunity to help a wide range of professionals better understand how the arts can play an important role in civic and social endeavors. In turn, I have learned so much about about my city from these organizations, which allows me to offer better informed solutions. I believe in deep ongoing reciprocal collaboration, not just the more temporary, utilitarian, or giver-recipient models. It requires more commitment and risk, but in my opinion it is the best way to create the most benefits for all.

 

At the conference, I’m looking forward to…..

Meeting other people who share my passions for cultivating places that bring out the best in us. There are some other interesting sessions about equity and about other projects in Denver that I'm looking forward to learning about and from as well.