With more than 30 years of experience in leveraging the transformative power of the arts, what do you feel are effective methods for identifying the needs of a community and building trust within that community?
I don’t usually go into a neighborhood to address the needs of a community. For me, examining a neighborhood through its deficits is like putting the wrong foot forward in entering the community there.
I entered and worked in inner city North Philadelphia because I was invited. Sensing the unusual and potent opportunity to do something positive and innovative compelled me to continue. When the work honors people’s sensitivity and memory, welcomes people’s participation, and helps manifest their talent and ability, the people in the community will embrace it. When people see that their effort turned abandonment into form and beauty, people feel empowered and proud. When the process is open, inclusive, nurturing, and joyful, people begin to open their hearts. That is how we gain people’s trust.
We also gain the trust from the community by listening to them, working with them, creating opportunity that will improve their lives, helping the residents to express themselves so that their voices are heeded to. In the process of working together, we set up our programs to best address and tend to the many needs from the community. In many ways, the needs from the community shape our programs and give them purpose and meaning.