See you in Buckeye!

This weekend, Seth and I are moving to the Buckeye neighborhood to begin “Sidewalks of Buckeye,” an immersive storytelling and community planning project. We'll be living there for a month, from early June to early July 2015.

This is the first phase of our project. In a future phase, we plan to have a storefront that offers gathering space and arts programming. We’ll also be spending a lot of time in the neighborhood throughout the rest of this year.

What are your goals for this project?

Glad you asked!

  • To gather as many stories as possible from the people who live and work in Buckeye.
  • To tell our own story of living in the neighborhood.
  • To use arts activities to encourage people to connect with each other and with us.
  • To build a network of residents who can continue this work after we’re gone.

Why are you doing it?

Our job is to surface as many of the stories of this neighborhood as we can, in the hope that everyone -- residents, workers and visitors alike -- ends up understanding it better.

It’s all in the name of getting the word out about what this neighborhood currently is: who lives here, how they spend their time, what they like about Buckeye and what they don’t like. We’ll be presenting the positive and the negative, the happy and the sad.

Who are you doing it for?

The St. Luke’s Foundation commissioned us to do this work, with LAND Studio generously acting as our fiscal agent.

But more broadly, we’re doing it for the residents and workers of Buckeye, for Clevelanders, for Northeast Ohioans, for anyone interested in cities and their people.

What kind of content are you creating?

We’ll work with residents in the neighborhood to report this information on our blog as we go. We’ll use media such as writing, audio, video, illustration and photography. From that raw material, we’ll create a final synthesis toward the end of this year, also collaborating with neighborhood residents.

What is the hoped-for outcome?

We want the outcomes of this work to constitute a new type of community plan: One that builds on and elevates a neighborhood as it currently exists rather than imposing external models of success upon it.

The Buckeye neighborhood has many strengths: engaged residents, a remarkably intact commercial corridor along Buckeye Road, solid, historic housing stock, and great access to public transportation and social services. At the same time, it has struggled with issues such as disinvestment, vacancy and crime.

We hope our work points not only to new directions for the neighborhood but to ways it can build on what -- and more importantly, who -- is already there.

Isn’t it weird for two relatively privileged white guys to be doing this work in a predominantly African-American neighborhood?

We recognize that we’re different, at least on the surface, from many Buckeye residents. That’s why we’ve already been working hard to form strong relationships with people who live and work here, and will continue to do that throughout the time we’re in the neighborhood. We cannot do this work without the trust and goodwill of Buckeye residents.

We’ll also emphasize that our job is to facilitate what people already living here have to offer and what they want, not what we think they should.

How will the people of Buckeye benefit from this work?

Beyond the service we hope to do to bring to light stories from the neighborhood, we’ll hire several paid resident-collaborators. They’ll work with us to help collect stories and data, program arts events and synthesize our materials.

What do you expect to find?

We don't know, and that's the exciting part. “Sidewalks of Buckeye” is going to be fun and challenging. We’re sure it will open our eyes -- and, we hope, the eyes of our audience -- in ways we couldn’t possibly predict.