It’s easy to notice differences between neighborhoods in Boston. Some places have really nice parks, pop-up shops, and modern business districts. Others have bodegas, vacant lots, and endless pizza/sub shops. The latter is the reality of the community Urban Edge primarily serves, but it’s starting to change.
For some people the community engagement team at Urban Edge encounters, they see nothing good about their community and it’s just a place where they live. For others, they can see the past, present, and a brighter future. The common trait among these groups and those who live in “nicer” or “safer” communities is that they all want the same thing–safe streets, good schools, usable parks, etc.
We learned of Love Your Block, which is a grant from the City of Boston to support resident-led neighborhood projects.
This would be the perfect opportunity for residents to have real influence on their community. The residents living in the 5W’s have seen the neighborhood change for good and bad. After months of meeting and discussing, a group of residents decided to apply for the Love Your Block grant from the Mayor’s office. One resident even attended a city sponsored grant-writing workshop to learn how to win this award from the city. Residents were awarded the grant from Mayor Walsh’s office! Each week, residents came together to brainstorm what changes they would make in their community and uses for the grant funding.
Residents decided to revitalize the Waldren Park Garden. The park once housed a building (photo credit: City of Boston Archives) that burned and was never rebuilt. Eventually the Department of Neighborhood Development created a small park.
Plans for the space include:
Art installation on park benches
New tile checker/chess boards
Events like Zumba and music via neighborhood partnerships
The vision for the art is to serve as a reflection of the residents who are multicultural and multi-generational. Egleston Square YMCA and neighborhood teens will learn art techniques/styles and create the art. Three teens were awarded a stipend as a Youth Art Ambassador.
So what happened as a result of the Love Your Block grant?
Before & After:
They came. They saw. They conquered. May 21st was the big reveal of this community’s efforts and it was a fantastic experience! As each bench arrived one by one, (thanks to maintenance!) the enthusiasm was in the air. The four benches were completed by the talented teens of the Egleston Square YMCA led by Sidmarie Arroyo.
The four images are of Tupac, Lauryn Hill, Frida Kahlo, and Prince. Stop by and check out the benches in person.
Besides the art, you could feel the sense of community between old and new residents. People were sharing stories about the days when standing on your stoop was like a war zone and moms talked about needing to take better care of their physical health. The sounds of different languages, music, and accents are a reflection of this diverse community. Kids were eager to paint, plant flowers with Ms. Martha (who is a garden guru), and enjoy some ice cream. There was something for everyone from free books donated by a resident, food, music, art, and more!
This event is just the beginning of a movement. Residents talked about having movies, music, and exercising in the space outside. They have an idea of what they want for their community, and with some support, change can happen.
Art is changing people and physical spaces. Egleston Square YMCA Teen & Art Specialist, Sidmarie Arroyo, said it best: