2018 FELLOW PROJECT
POLAROIDS TO SELFIES: THE INTERGENERATIONAL STORY
For the past thirty to thirty-five years there has been a significant decline in the East Akron Community at large and the targeted area I will highlight (Arlington St as demarcation point and fanning out a half mile East, West, North and South) in particular. I believe that a good portion of the decline began in the early eighties, due in part to the decline of the rubber industry. The morale and the face of the city suffered great loss.
The project’s aim is to create dialogue, encourage community pride, spark interest in entrepreneurial business and foster lasting relationships, to the end that we gain traction in creating outgrowths that include:-apprenticeships, introduce an art hub, book clubs, sewing clubs, and computer labs of learning.
First and foremost I am inspired to see change because I live in this neighborhood! I see first-hand the importance of re-creating the narrative with regard to its survival and revival! So often many who are healthy can leave/abandon a highly dense, working class poor neighborhood for what they deem to be better, it takes committed people to stay and make it better than what it is.
Secondly, case studies and statistics show that blighted, dilapidated buildings and vacant lots contribute to poor health. To quote one concerned neighbor, “vacant lots equal vacant feelings.” These feelings are exacerbated when neighbors live in a vacuum of isolation. I believe that sharing familiar stories create much needed bridges that build meaningful relationships.
The inspiration behind the project is seeing the ever present need for good change—revitalization, repopulation, restoration and retail revival. Story coupled with a vested interest and concerted effort, can and will change the trajectory of this neighborhood.
Diane Lewis is a community organizer and outreach advocate. She has directed several outreach initiatives including: the "Martin Luther King Jr. Day" winter wear and coat distribution; "This City Reads" site coordinator; Keep Akron Beautiful neighborhood beautification project and We Care Community Garden; "Souls to the Polls" voter drive, and founding director of "College Coming 2U," a financial aid and access program for under-served and underrepresented students. She is passionate about finding ways to encourage, educate and empower others. A counselor by trade and a minister by calling, Diane utilizes this three tiered principle to, in the words of Mary Church Terrell, "lift as we climb." Most recently, Diane has used visual arts and story-telling to bridge the gap between generations. She revisited the oral tradition of testimony as a means of passing down healthy narratives to help those struggling, move beyond negative circumstances. Diane is excited to continue her work by joining the League of Creative Interventionist to move beyond neighborhood, and connect as a community.