Archive for the ‘United Way of Larimer County’ tag
Making major changes in your own community sounds like a lot of responsibility for one person. There are many volunteers and active community members throughout Fort Collins, however sometimes it feels hard to have a huge impact. We are always so busy, some last second thing always seems to take up our schedules at any given moment, and by the time we get around to making a donation or working a volunteer shift somewhere around town, we cannot help but wonder if we had done enough.
Imagine, though, what would happen if we could gather hundreds, thousands, even millions of people together at once, all making a small contribution. The impact of such a collaboration would be amazing.
A volunteer effort of this size happens every year on national Make A Difference Day. On the fourth Saturday of October for the last eighteen years, people from across the country have organized volunteer efforts in their own towns. Last year, 3 million people registered as volunteers and implemented thousands of community improvement projects. Whether it is something as small as helping out a neighbor, or a nationwide effort that affects several cities at once, all volunteer efforts are celebrated on this day.
Last year, in Yazoo City, Mississippi, a 97-year-old retired teacher named Leola hosted her annual Flea Market. With the help of local volunteers, she gathered clothing, books, appliances, food, bikes, and anything else she can find, and displayed it for her neighbors to shop for in her yard- all for free. “I love Make A Difference Day because I can help so many people in just one day,” Leola says. “I just love seeing them take carloads away.”
Leola was a part of several volunteer organizations that received an honorary award for their contributions. Each year, USA Weekend, which founded Make A Difference Day, gives $10,000 awards to several volunteer organizations.
The United Way of Larimer County is dedicated to making sure that volunteers in our community can reach out and help others. As Leola and millions of other volunteers in the U.S. have shown, even just one small contribution goes a long way in one’s own town. Citizens in Fort Collins and all around Northern Colorado can register to volunteer with the United Way of Larimer Country and get connected to the many different projects going on in their communities. Last year, the United Way organized projects from painting and restoring run down homes to helping families in need care for their yards. The response to Make A Difference Day has been so strong in Larimer county that it has been extended throughout the entire week. This year, from October 19-October 24, you can participate as a volunteer in any way you wish.
There are so many different ways that you can help out this week. You can sign up for any project as an individual, put together a group and volunteer together, or even create your own project. Visit the United Way of Larimer County, and find out how easy it is to be a part of this nationwide volunteer experience.
No matter how you choose to participate, you will be a part of a huge effort to improve communities across America. Because when it comes to helping others, even the smallest thing can produce the biggest results.
Last week, I wrote about creative economy, and although there’s a lot more to say and think about, today, I’m wondering about the products that make up the creative economy. The United Kingdom’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport defines creative industries as, “those activities which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property.” While a creative product may exist as a physical entity (think paper, film, computer disk…), its value is in its meaning and what it represents—its content. The content/information of a creative product is boundless, but that content/information defines its value. Creativeclusters.org offers a good example, “Even with a designer T-shirt or a piece of [jewelry], it’s the style, the design that counts, not the cloth or the metal.”
This past weekend, on the Lower East side, New York, several artists and community organizations opened an exhibition, that puts this concept to the test. HomeBase IV, is an exhibition in a vacant medical clinic. This is not an exhibition of art created somewhere else and then transported into a pristine, neutral gallery for contemplation. A lot of what you can see in HomeBase IV, was created from materials found in the existing space. The creative product, the process, the content, and the experience of visiting the site give the project value.
“’When we arrived, it had nothing in it,’ said Leor Grady, the curatorial and programming director of the project. ‘It smelled like a combination of mildew, chemicals, medical waste and sheet rock.’ Even after a cleaning, the worn peachy-beige walls, industrial carpeting and fluorescent lighting retain a sterility that serves as a palette for the sometimes unsettling works.”
A variety of artists collaborated to explore the notion of “home,” in this specific space (unused clinic) and to engage the residents of a changing neighborhood. This means that the artists met together, talked, read, and interacted with the public to determine what would happen in the space, as well as worked to design what a visitor can see. (See images) All at once, the meaning for the project/action is in the process and its space–the product becomes spatial, as it connects people, place, and time. Gone is the presumption that art=object, or that art can only exist isolated from community in a building labeled as gallery or museum. As reported in the New York Times, one of the artists, Paul Sepuya, a Brooklyn photographer of Ugandan descent eloquently describes his reality and makes his experience tangible. “I thought it would be interesting to apply the idea of home as spatial,” he says. “When you’re not at home, it’s constructed by your family’s stories.” His contribution to the exhibition includes portraits of friends and neighbors who like him, have some association with Uganda—a “home” that Sepuya has never visited! Another artist, Dafna Shalom took photos of men in the neighborhood who reminded her of her father — a hand here, a hairstyle there. Our realities are often constructed through small gestures that we don’t notice, but become intriguing when we stop and think. If a smelly, unused, and dingy health clinic in New York, can be reinvented as a site for building community and thinking about the meaning of “home,” what are we overlooking?
Creative economy is driven by creative industry. Products are reorganized from seeming non-existence, although the ideas and materials may already have been there. Ideas are what transforms materials and what can transform people, neighborhoods, cities, and towns! There are lots of creative spaces and events that promote thinking in and about Fort Collins. This week we can think about caring for each other by simply eating out to help United Way of Larimer County. Later in the week, think about places that used to be here but only exist as fading away signs painted on buildings in Old Town, or join others to think about an area of Fort Collins that will grow in the future. You can contemplate exhibitions about Dreams, Floating Worlds, and art made by senior citizens. Perhaps you’ll ride the trolley and think about public transport, or learn more about the public art that helps create a sense of place in our city. All the details are at www.visitfortcollins.com!
The whole world is a museum without walls!