The article "101 ways you can improve your city" has been bouncing around the email inboxes at Community enCompass for a few months now, fueling our dreams of neighborhood revitalization. We have shared our favorites below in the hopes that you will be inspired and encouraged to get involved and live into the reality that we OWN (create, shape, mold) our community and neighborhoods.
Some of the ideas shared below can be quite simple, others might involve a group of friends, others may need involvement from local government, but ALL of them are possible. What will you make possible?
Make a seat
How many public places are there to sit in your neighborhood? Public seats encourage neighborly conversations and community (Forest Gump people!), so why not build one and see what happens! Bus stops, green spaces, street corners, all could be turned in to mini community hubs of conversation and community. Some ideas to inspire are HERE, HERE and HERE.
A lack of municipal trash cans in the core city neighborhoods has led to trash just being thrown on the street. It ain't pretty, no one wants litter in their front garden and it makes our community look….trashy! Why not provide a trash can for your street? Why not make a Colorful trash can you can empty every week? Inspiration can be found HERE.
Empty lots, derelict homes, plots of Mud are all eyesores on the neighborhood….why not plant something colorful and help nature bring life back to broken areas of your neighborhood. Check this link out and learn how to get started from some Guerrilla Gardening Pros!
Make an alley into a public art studio
Back in 2004, Detroit homeowners frustrated by people tagging and vandalizing their property decided if their garages were going to be canvases, they might as well benefit the community. Now, those alley-facing doors have become public galleries thanks to The Alley Project, which works with more than 100 young artists to showcase their work, hold art classes, and beautify the neighborhood.
Turn infrastructure into t-shirts
It’s a simple way to achieve instant street cred. German art group Raubdruckerin uses a "pirate printing" technique that, in essence, screenprints manhole covers, a process that creates graphic T-shirts with a clever connection to different European cities.
Start a parking lot diary
This is a great way to get feedback from your neighborhood. You have something in mind, but want input from others? Set up a Parking lot diary, you could even throw a party…..because why not?!
Give directions to your entire city
With a mission to get more "feet on the street," the Walk Your City project promotes more conversational, community-oriented wayfinding. Community groups can visit the site, create a set of custom signs (with messages such as "It’s a 2-minute walk to the library"), and get them shipped and ready to install. The concept has already played out in cities such as Mount Hope, West Virginia, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Fix up your bus stop
Bus stops must be the most boring spots in town. In Muskegon, most don't even have seats. Why not get a group together and adopt a stop? Build a seat, post up some interesting reading material, maybe add a community noticeboard! You can find some great examples from other cities HERE, HERE and HERE!
Get to know your neighbors
This one's REVOLUTIONARY! (And possibly the easiest). Do you know your neighbor? In this age of social media, we spend more time getting to know strangers across the country than we do our neighbor across the street. Go say HELLO! Start a conversation, who knows you may even make a friend, you may even change a life!
Start a YIMBY group
Across the country, pro-development, pro-housing fans are organizing against NIMBYs with unified YIMBY—that’s "Yes In My Backyard", What do you want to see in your neighborhood? Let's make our selfs heard!
Oral history projects
Muskegon Heights has already embarked on an Oral history project, why not have Nelson, McLaughlin, Angel, Downtown neighborhoods edition, put the interviews up on youtube and share your stories with the world. Documenting your neighbor's stories preserves the fabric and history of a neighborhood, giving context to why this place and its people matters. More examples can be found HERE and HERE.
There are dozens of groups in your neighborhood doing their part to make your city a better place. Spend a few hours pitching in. If you can't think of where to volunteer, why not volunteer with us! Community enCompass relies on volunteers just like you to maintain our work with neighbors in Muskegon's core-city neighborhoods.
Set the table for community conversation
After breaking bread with someone, it’s hard to consider them a stranger. That’s the philosophy that informed The Longest Table, a 400-person feast put together by community groups in Tallahassee, Florida, to break down social barriers and get neighbors talking to each other. Maybe invite your neighborhood to a chili cook of?
Join a time bank
Think of a time bank like a community ATM where you can deposit and withdraw "hours" of skills like cash. If there’s not one near you, the documentary Time as Money highlights several successful programs around the world and provides inspiring resources.
Create community murals, and make preserving them a priority
Public art can illuminate a street, but protecting the work over time can truly define a neighborhood and foster creativity and talent. Philadelphia’s iconic Mural Arts Program, which started in 1984 and turned the city into a street art mecca, includes a restoration initiative, to make sure creative expression is prized and protected. Just think of the buzz created around the 5th street and 3rd street Murals, we have some talented artists in Muskegon, let's give them a canvas to showcase their skill and brighten up our streets!
Smile, particularly at strangers
"If you are feeling Southern enough, actually speak. It instantly makes the world a better place." — Carol Coletta, a senior fellow with The Kresge Foundation’s American Cities Practice.
Screen a movie outdoors
Have a favorite movie you want to share? Or a documentary that changed your perception? An impromptu movie night isn’t as hard to organize as it may sound. From a small gathering with neighbors to a larger, site-specific, artistic spectacular, cinema can expand horizons and bring people together. This guide on how to set up your own screening offers tips on how to host your own screening, whether it’s on an actual screen or the side of a building. You can find a great guide to DIY popup movies HERE.
Just show up
Want to know what's happening in your community? Have an opinion on a local issue? Then show up and share! Local and county government hold public meetings, which are often void of input from the communities and neighborhoods they serve, your opinion might just be the thing they're missing.
A list of Muskegon neighborhoods and their associations can be found HERE.
A Timetable for Muskegon City Hall Meetings can be found HERE.
A list of schedules for Muskegon county meeting can be found HERE.
Reflect and connect with your neighbors
"Create an anonymous prompt in public space using simple tools like chalkboard paint, stencils, and chalk." — Candy Chang, Before I Die, New Orleans.
Vote. VOTE. V O T E !
This is the system we live in, don't like what a local councilor is doing, vote them out, know someone who is passionate about your neighborhood, vote them in! Vote local, vote city, vote county, vote state, vote nationally (No excuses), it's certainly not a perfect system but the power is in your hands.
So now you have some inspiration! Get out there, and change the face of your community. We look forward to seeing what you do!