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Pam Bailey, NeighborWorks blogger | 7/8/2016 4:34:29 PM

 

Children paint a mural in Hopewell, Virginia


Art creates community and community creates change. – Groundswell, New York City

When reviewing the work of the 11 organizations selected to receive NeighborWorks America’s Catalytic Grant, two threads are common across many of them: community building and art, in all of its many different forms.

The grant program is designed to “strengthen local capacity to plan and implement comprehensive approaches to community stabilization that produce measurable gains.” Art is cool, and often beautiful, for sure—but can it really help stabilize and revitalize a distressed community? There are many believers, and Jackie Harder, multimedia specialist with Community Housing Partners (CHP) in Hopewell, Virginia, is one of them. In fact, she focused her graduate thesis in urban planning on the subject.

“Citizens and artisans alike can bring about conscious social change using art as the platform,” she says, and shares this quote from two of the experts in the field: “It is the nature of art to create openings where one can envision something outside the realm of what already exists for oneself, one’s community and the world—a realm where anything is possible. Artists and their collaborators know that it is within this free space for creative expression that people can explore new identities and possibilities for themselves and their communities.”