In October, I wrote a blog post for the Downtown Living Advocates asking:
Are you an artist, teacher or volunteer, who shares a vision for residents creating community through creativity? Do you own a vacant downtown property that is ripe for a face lift? Together we can transform sidelined windows into magnets for inspiration and activity.
Two months later, I’m ready to introduce BEST, a team of Downtown Raleigh residents, business leaders and artists who have come together with the mission of BEAUTIFYING EMERGING SPACESTOGETHER. Our vision has morphed and grown according to the imagination and individual skills of each person who has joined our table, often over coffee at the Wilmoore Cafe. This seems fitting, somehow. It reminds me of my dad perched along the drug store counter drinking coffee with his friends. I feel the same kind of community in this group, as each person holds up his corner of the conversation.
Let me describe some of the people around the table. There’s one who is drawn there by his advocacy for all people living downtown, including the ones currently challenged by homelessness. He knows that this effort shapes their living room and calls them to consider how they might also transform the empty spaces in their lives. And it gives the creatively-oriented among his flock an opportunity to tell their stories through art.
Then there are the computer-savvy gurus of social media who are excited about applying their skills for an effort that affects the experience of every person who lives, visits and works downtown. Some focus on the goal of connecting neighborhoods, while others simply have a passion for promoting what they love about Raleigh. Still others are like dentists, wanting to improve the randomly spaced teeth that appear to have been left to decay. We all want to see a consistent smile up and down the sidewalks of Downtown.
I’m grateful to those with real estate and fund raising background, whose contacts are critical to moving our effort forward. They encourage each of us to realize how empowered we are by giving both our talents and our financial backing to support this grass roots initiative.
Then there are artists and writers, who are the eyes and voice of our group. We imagine, and they provide the picture of what they see in their minds.
Our first window to be unveiled at the Hue (corner of Hargett and Dawson Streets) on February’s First Friday is an example. When asked what brought her to the BEST table, Kalesia Kuenzel, director of Arthouse4kids always answered the same thing. She championed the power of children’s exuberance to inspire, revitalize and connect the community with their art. We were so amazed when she showed us her students’ work, in fact, that we made it the logo for BEST.
Stop by the Hue on February 3 to see our first art installation, based on Kalesia’s prodigies. If you have your smart phone, you’ll be able to check out a QR code that accesses a video highlighting these young artists.
We see BEST as an invitation to bring out Raleigh’s best, whatever that looks like in each of us!
We welcome you to our table.