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  • EJP

The Chattanooga Design studio kicked off the first lecture series of 2021 with a bang

EJP President and urban planner Rhae Parkes and creative strategist Erika Roberts discuss the challenges and rewards of meaningful engagement, drawing on lessons from the field nationwide and in Chattanooga.

Last night, 2 women behind the local Westside Community Evolves projectRhae Parks of EJP consulting, the planning organization working on the project, and local artist Erika Roberts — took the stage to discuss how community engagement and involvement + art are important facets in neighborhood redevelopment.

✏️ Principles used in the project

  • Understand the baseline: past + present | Understanding the community’s history

  • Start with strengths + assets | Don’t originally focus on what needs to be fixed, but what is strong about the community

  • Be clear about opportunities for influence V. decision making | Be honest about the difference between community input + community decision making

  • Listen actively, be transparent, be consistent | Intentionally listen to the community, and stay transparent throughout the project’s stages

  • Recruit allies, collaborate; Leverage community assets, partners, and momentum | Community allies, partners + collaboration are important

  • Find early wins, especially those that are resident-led | In years-long projects, show that you are listening to the community by providing early-stage tangible successes — ie, bus stops, sidewalk paving, etc.

  • Invest time + resources | Invest in elements like surveys and technical studies, community conversations + diverse communication mechanisms

✏️ The importance of art Local artist Erika Roberts discussed how her 98-year-old grandmother has lived in the Westside community since Erika was a child, and how the community is important to her. She wanted to preserve the community + history of Westside through art. She outlined the necessary elements of a successful process that works through art:

  • An organization

  • Artist(s)

  • Community

  • Intentionality

The unveiling of the Westside Evolves final plan + the artwork that accompanies it will take place tomorrow in the Westside community.


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