How do we grow Culture in a Community? And why is Culture so important?
As we touched on in a previous post: we must also be mindful of the Millennial Market shift to an Experience Economy in favour of Artisanal & desire to support local business suppliers provides an opportunity to engage with your community and share the story of your brand! This shift covers more than market trends, it is a different way of life and major change in both priorities & values. As a business owner, become a participant in the festival with a table or display in (or in front of) your business to share the story of your brand! How long has your business been a part of the community? Is it a family business? Where do you source your products? What makes your quality stand above the rest?
This is a perfect opportunity to build a relationship and generate customer loyalty from your friends and neighbours! Most customers in today’s market will spend a little more to know their supporting their neighbour’s business or that they’re providing their family with a healthier/more natural option.
As Placemakers, we must make ‘Infra-Culture’ (as described by Ryan Gravel in ) as vital to Infra-Structure as any other component when we think of vital services.
Implementing the ingrained groundwork for the culture of a community must be as vital as planning the water, sewer and power supply lines beneath the roads and sidewalks that move our community. While the infrastructure may help to move the residents and power their homes, the infra-culture of a community is their reason to move and empowers their daily life and decision-making. Gravel describes Infra-Culture as “The physical manifestation of our preferred lifestyle” in his book “Where We Want to Live: Reclaiming Infrastructure for a New Generation of Cities”. Gravel uses Atlanta Beltline Project as a model to support his implemented ideas to grow a community. This project took existing barriers such as abandoned rail lines to “[Take] old barriers and turning[sic] into meeting grounds for people.” These places also provide future transit opportunities as “When the transit comes – and it must – it will not only amplify these positive changes, but will also provide the infrastructure required to handle the magnitude of the change that is coming” (Gravel).
How can we cultivate solutions that solve both our Cultural/Structural ‘Infra’ needs while also providing ample opportunities to foster positive human social interactions? Where can we look for a template to build on? How can we grow something both sustainable and reflective of the community inhabiting it?
The answers all lie within its borders from the Civic Identity of the community: “Civic identity is more than just a recipe” Gravel explains “In that regard Detroiters have much to teach us. They have been creating new things all their lives.” Where is there a better example of a community that has faced challenges which test and push the boundaries of the human spirit. Detroiters maintain an unbreakable spirit and unshaken understanding of the identity of their community. Despite decades of municipal corruption, riots, and near bankruptcy, a community stands united. It’s citizens—the ones who still occupy Metro Detroit after the workday is done—still find meaning within themselves, their faith, their family, and their community to say “I am blessed”. This indomitable spirit will ensure the longevity of the city and is at the core of its rebirth (not foreign investment capitalizing on low property values). It’s the ingrained history, culture and community that provide a solid foundation to allow for a sustainable renaissance. It’s also those residents who love their city who are claiming public space or sharing the story and experience of Detroit to entice new residents to live and build their lives in the Motor City. The drives of these individuals are the central gears of its rebirth and their passion what fuels them.
Making Art & Community programming a key component of transforming public space reminds community members that a city/town is more than just essential services! It’s how we engage with space and the memories we build there. A streetscape is merely the canvas where we paint the story of our lives! Where do we spend time with our family? Where did our child learn to ride their bike? Where do we go for picnics in the summer? Our experience in our community is where we build the memories that stick with us. Art & programming in our community provide the opportunities to become a catalyst for engaging with public space and remind us of our reason for living! What do we value? What do we dream for? Can we imagine the impossible again? Visual art, performance, music (live & recorded)… all of these integrated regularly throughout our community turn streets into inspiration points and reminders on how we can create a better life!
Community events implemented will and focused around supporting local business will boost the local economy and support locally owned business!
They attract foot traffic right to the doorstep of local businesses that rely on community members as their primary customer basis. Planning the event to enhance these foot traffic patterns, encourage participation (through passport programs, window/business facade decorating competitions, etc) can create a unified sense of space, boost short term sales, build new customer relationships with festival visitors and act as an experiential activation for both he BIA and individual businesses (if planned properly). Any business along a festival can see a sharp increase in short/long term business with a vibrant community schedule even with the minor loss of parking for a weekend. The increased foot traffic in front of their business will be exponentially more effective in creating new business than one paid-street parking spot (with a low percentage yield that one parking spot was a customer for their business).
Streets closed to foot traffic in support of improved foot traffic also generate a greater possibility that visitors will engage with multiple businesses! “While we’re here, why don’t we pick up an ice cream and listen to some live music before we pick up our dry cleaning?”
Where people start to gather… life begins to slow again! People walk slower on the street. The hectic pace of the workweek slows and Public Space becomes Living Space. This creates a more attractive neighbourhood where people will gather; engage with one another and prompts further spontaneous interactions or entering local businesses to enhance their daily experience. The consumer trends shifting away from big-ticket sales (discussed in Experience Economy) mean there is a demand for this strong community where people can gather and will make daily purchasing choices that improve their daily experience (not just accumulate material gain)… If I haven’t said it enough, the timing is ripe for that artisanal ice cream shop on Main Street! Communities with an improved perceived livability will not only attract more homebuyers but it will attract new business as healthy communities provide a sustainable customer base and great supply of employees!
… to be continued.
In the next blog, we’ll explore implementing beneficial practices in communities to grow this vibrant community with festivals, BIA initiatives and by-law’s that may surprise you!