Well, now that my son is four years old, I can actually find a little free time now and then to get out and participate in these exciting conversations. I was really looking forward to attending my first imagineCALGARY event this morning. I imagined myself talking with grown-ups about far-sighted, complicated visions, and most of all, enjoying a change of pace from my usual life at home building train tracks with my four-year-old. It's a bit ironic that one of the big selling points of this particular event was that we'd get to play with Lego. Honestly, if I never see any Lego again, I'd probably be ok with that. At least it wasn't train tracks!
Joking aside (the Lego was fun), this was an awesome crowd of thinkers and doers. The opportunity to learn about what they've been up to, and what they want to do next, was inspiring. Here are my sketchnotes:
Our one-day event certainly convinced me that getting neighbours out on their front lawns is a great way to forge connections, make streetscapes more lively and lovely, and enjoy all sorts of excellent long-lasting "by-products" into the bargain (neighbourhood safety... friendships... inspiration... not to mention a line on local vegetables, if your neighbours happen to be the Leaf Ninjas). Anyway, I joined this group of thinkers who were working on building a lego model of what our "living sidewalks" (enlivened by gardens, art and general neighbourhood creativity). Here's Mike Fotheringham showing the street we designed.
Pop-Ups (shameless plug: take a look at find it!)
Home business ventures, from lemonade stands to yard sales to craft fairs
Firepits for chilly evenings (with hot chocolate for neighbours who stop by)
"Little Free Libraries"
Water tanks & rain barrels for watering gardens
Public art (for some great homegrown examples courtesy of Calgary is Awesome, see here)
(And by the way, public art can sometimes serve a purpose as well as plain old street beautification: witness the Painted Utility Box Program and Sunalta's muralized pedestrian crossing)
Good things about this kind of engagement:
It doesn't have to cost a lot
It doesn't (have to) require jumping through a lot of bureaucratic hoops
It can have great side-effects (traffic calming; crime prevention; neighbourhood networking; creative inspiration; healthy outdoor activity... the list is endless!)
And... it can get people (such as elderly folks) engaged, who wouldn't usually have that kind of opportunity
If you need more inspiration about this kind of thing, look no further than this TED Talk by Jason Roberts of Austin, Texas, in case you haven't heard about his brilliant "Better Blocks."
Well - our group of imagineCALGARIANS talked about staying in touch in order to make something happen on our own streetscapes. Stay tuned! I'll let you know what we come up with!
Thanks, imagineCALGARY, for a great morning. And now back to the train tracks.