Updated: Mar 26, 2020
Photo: Kassy Mason
I spent the first two weeks listening (and there is a whole lot more of that to do). I familiarized myself with Flint’s government officials and an impressive array of local foundations and arts organizations. I also met with thought leaders in Detroit, Lansing, and Ann Arbor. But I quickly realized Flint is rich in incredible community-led initiatives and neighborhood movers and shakers. I carved out time to really learn what Flint is all about. I need to know who is currently working hard in their neighborhoods, what is our history of placemaking, how is downtown being used, and for those not using it, what do they want to experience? I quickly realized that Flint has a strong and storied history of placemaking and a lot of momentum to carry some wonderful initiatives forward.
I still need to take the time to invest in relationships, so who should I “meet” (virtually-chat) with right now?
When I was recruited to Flint, I was tasked with bringing downtown more alive year-round. My charge was to improve the experience for residents and visitors. This mission excited me. I had started a public art company that brought me around the world on special assignments, but I was looking for a home, a place I could contribute to and be a part of for the long haul. After having a life-changing experience last year working with the Flint Public Art Project, I knew Flint could be that place.
Flint’s new place-making initiative aims to create a series of activations and pop-ups based on the community’s unique needs and assets, drawing particularly on original creative talent. We will promote local partnerships to ensure our urban core is both equitable and healthy for all. I am ready to help us get there by writing the grants, getting the resources, procuring the permits, and making sure our talented and creative citizens can just focus on bringing the magic to the city’s center.
We already have the ingredients to do so much. Downtown is absolutely stunning. The parks are in great shape, cared for, and adorned with art and love. During much of the warmer months, our public spaces are already full of life. Flint is drenched in talent. Real, true, raw, talent. Original art, music, video production, clothing, health care products, and more are all being created by bright minds and tough hands not far from Saginaw Street.
We are blessed in Flint to have such a beautiful downtown surrounded by gorgeous walk/bike trails, parks/alleys that make perfect venues, a caring community, and talent to imbue the downtown with. It’s a deadly (good) combination. I look forward to working together to add value to and celebrating local talent and building local economies right here. It’s time to focus on and bring our creatives up, and to give them the main spotlight.
Despite all of our current challenges as a City and a country, I see this as a truly exciting time to be in this new position. During the stay-at-home, I plan to stay on track to continue to develop strong relationships and then fine-tune planning efforts. I have created a visitors’ guide to downtown that will be printed as a z-card (looks like a credit card that unfolds into a map with info). The guide will offer street art walking tours to highlight the presence of the global street art movement right here in Flint. Printed quarterly, it will also highlight these pop-up events as well as the myriad of already existing cool things going on.
In the coming weeks, I will continue to get a sense of the talent we have and dig deep into the underground scene and start to put Flint hip-hop artists, authors, illustrators, painters, spoken-word poets, drawers, thespians, chefs and other makers to the top.
This is work we will need to do together, so I need your help:
How do you use downtown and how do you want that to change and/or grow? What do you want to see? Is there someone you know who deserves the spotlight for their talent? If you have any ideas, thoughts, questions, know talented people, or want me to ‘meet’ with someone, please reach me at email@example.com. I really want to hear from you.
I’m looking forward to what comes next!