Porch Fest "How to Guide"
Updated: Jun 26, 2022
For anyone interested in organizing a PorchFest (PF), please use the materials and information below. This blog took me a few hours to write but over ten years to gather. With that, be mindful that this is not my original idea. The sources of my inspiration are acknowledged below and so when you launch yours be sure to credit some of the founders and those who inspired you, and of course, put in the hard work it takes to make this your own.
Step One: Pick A Date Your PorchFest (PF) really should celebrate and honor the street and neighborhood that is hosting the special day. Pictured below is a real save-the-date example that was also distributed as an art print designed by Yaz Ladha, a graphic designer that literally lives on the street the Carriage Town PF is hosted on, West First Ave. Step one is to choose a date that makes sense for your community. Make sure there are no major conflicting events in your neighborhood by talking to your neighbors and while you are at it, decide on a rain date as well.
Step Two: Budget
The budget below will vary and be unique to your PF project, You can populate each line item listed below based on your relationships, what resources are available to your neighborhood, and the local talent market.
While you build your budget. Each line item is usually around the same but the talent fees will require you to do some research when deciding what to pay your artists based on what they currently charge. Keep in mind this is a very unique outdoor gig and the musician(s) provide sound so be sure to pay more than the going-rate.
I make the bold claim that 80% of funding should go to artists through this process to support the creative economy. If you do not know what to pay, I compare what talent makes locally and then compare it to regional rates as well as those across the state in an effort to elevate the scene. It is not as hard as it sounds to source this information, many local organizations publish their numbers. What's the main lesson? Do not be shy to ask, do not be greedy, and DO NOT ASK YOUR TALENT TO WORK FOR FREE.
Step Two & Half: Build Your Team of Neighbors You need to identity two main residents to work as the leaders for this street gathering. The two individuals should get along and communicate very well with each other, have fun with collaboration, and be trusted to pull his/her own weight to follow through with all of the work. These two main residents will talk to neighbors and help decisions get broken down step by step and made democratically. For example, decide together: what kind of music, what porches to host on, what food is cooked on this street, and what are the kids activities based on how the neighborhood is populated? Below is a great example of how to find your two leads that I created when working in Michigan:
Step Three: Get Organized
Create a Facebook Community page
Post an open call for "porch hosts" and hyper local talent. The first post can say something like: Are you a musician who would like to play on a porch? Do you have an area for a band on your porch or room in your driveway or yard to host a musician, maker, crafter, artist, fitness instructor, author, or poet? Create a Facebook Event Page Connect this to your Community page. People who are linked to your community page are invited to the free event. Invite everyone you know to “like” your page. As people began to “like” your FB page you can use it as a central hub for your project. Transparency and information sharing is critical to this process. The central hub can be a platform to recruit volunteers and talent, and this also builds the buzz. These posts could be a video of the bands as you welcomed them to play on your street. Analog is important too. You do not want to leave anyone out. Below is a document I made to help with outreach since our must vulnerable populations do not have access to a computer and/or the internet.
Step Four: City Business
Your city should have a block party permit that is cheap, quick, and easy to apply for. Ask around or google "Block party permit & name of your city."
Leading up to your permit application, it is important to meet with city officials and public service providers such as the local fire department, hospital, inspectional services, police traffic & engineer, Mayor's Office and your local council person. When you book the meeting, demonstrate that you have a well organized plan based on customizing the materials provided above to best represent the host-street.
Step Five: Have fun, take pictures and record some stats!
Applying for grants and the growth of your PF becomes easier each year with proof of concept. Contact the local media to cover your event in print, online, radio, and tv. Are there local vloggers, bloggers, podcasters, or influencers you can share with? Additionally, below is an impact report in an easy, one-page format that captures a snap-shot of the numbers behind the process and creation of your PF.
Additionally, here are some examples of local media partnerships:
Caniff Street PorchFest - 600 attendees Want to Learn More? A little background. PorchFest is a national model that I first came across when I started placemaking (PM) in 2010 in my hometown of Binghamton, NY. Others believed in the revitalization of the poverty stricken, post-industrial town like Chris Bodnarczuk (BPF) and Joshua B. (LUMA). Chris told me he saw the PF model celebrated in Ithaca, NY (home to Cornell) and that he would one day bring it to the Westside. Not only did he but today is a perfect time to publish this resources guide to celebrate his recent announcement: BPF is hiring. Fast forward to 2019 when I accepted a public position to serve as the Director of PM in Michigan share my model of resident-led in Flint where the water crisis is happening. Typically I work closely with residents to decide on how their public spaces look and are programmed. COVID locked us down a mere 3 weeks after relocating there from the Los Angeles area, and so I decided to reach into my tool box and bring a model I knew could adapt to any place and was always successful. My first weeks in the job I was handed a Downtown Development Authority district map and decided the best strategy to PM was to start from the top and work my way down the TIF. The neighborhood Carriage Town was just barely with-in the boundaries, but West First Ave was. At the time local empress, poet and University of Michigan student Frankie McIntosh was interning with me and was exposed to the work of Dr. Mindy Fried in a sociology class. Frankie took lead to set up a meeting to speak to the woman who started a national phenomenon, the first documented PorchFest in a neighborhood right outside of Boston. The call felt surreal. Dr. Fried and her nieghbors have grown the festival to include over 800 porches and have incorporated creative and unique programming to expand beyond music such as theatre and a “soap box” called the Politicians Porch to give the proverbial mic to local council people to share information. Today I work 8AM-5PM in downtown Jax then 5-9 in the neighborhoods. Downtowns are only as strong as their neighborhoods. That is my PM model. In Flint residents were disappointed by the disproportionate investment in neighborhoods and guided me to facilitate the celebration of hip-hop and street culture so unique to Flintstones in the streets and create a downtown that is truly for all by being a central place that reflected the surrounding area. I worked closely with residents to make engaging decisions together to design what is essentially a family-friendly block party activating porches, sidewalks, road, driveways, abandoned houses, and vacant lots.
Flint PorchFest Green spaces, front porches, streets and sidewalks of North Flint evolved into gathering spaces and venues for art and music, culture, and creativity centered around families, neighbors, and strangers!
What is that process?
We go parcel by parcel 2 to 3 block area(s) with the help of neighbors to imagine and implement underutilized space activities. Vacant lots hosted activities like a workout class led by a local fitness instructor or a kids-zone with a plethora of friendly activities. Houses/porches were volunteers as staged for resident-selected bands and abandoned structures were assessed and considered for creative installations. In addition to talent in the neighborhoods, we didn’t just have city and state musicians we had muralists/painters, visual artists, poets, kids-zones and art teachers, private security, free meals, games, local vendors, a masseuse, fitness classes led by certified local trainers, story-tellers, belly-dancers, chefs and tastemakers, state and city police, firefighters and their truck, local medical professional and hospital representatives, health and vaccinations services, and more!
How can you bring PF to your street? Recently I took a phone call from an architect and social stitcher in Raleigh, NC Tina Govan and Marie Schacht to launch their customized version. I presented to City of Raleigh - Government, Raleigh residents, Downtown Raleigh Alliance, Raleigh Urban Design Center, and Raleigh Arts on my work in Flint. Right before that Tim Roodvoets called from Lapeer, MI to do the same (see below). Then, upon relocating to Jax, I met fellow placemaker Kelly Rich and learned that S.P.A.R hosts their very own and has many creative takes on the original model. They not only allocated upwards of $80,000 on their annual fundraiser but also use the proceeds to feed the neighborhood with locally made and interpreted public art.
Forever grateful to Chris Bodnarczuk for showing me the way in New York and MH at TPP, CTNA, FPAP, NEH, COF & the HUNDREDS of residents involved in contributing to this guide-to-PorchFest.
With your help, we can change the world. Together, this model can go from artist to artist, city to city and country to country. Please consider sharing this blog or if you need help getting started, writing a grant to fund yours (can share my template to a winning application), or have any questions? Contact KadyYellow@gmaill.com