On Wednesday, the entire SSP team visited the Dorchester Projects and Dorcester Art+ Housing Collaborative (DA+HC) in Greater Grand Crossing.

Dorcester Projects: Studio, Art Space, Archival Space

Dorcester Projects: Studio, Art Space, Archival Space–picture from their website.

Our host was Kate Hadley Toftness, Manager of Archival Collections and Public Engagement at the Rebuild Foundation–the nonprofit arm of Theater Gates’ work, focused on community revitalization through culture based, artist driven, neighborhood led movements rebuilding the cultural foundations of underinvested neighborhoods.

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Kate with Destiny, Chynna and Mikayla at the cool swinging-door entrance to the public community space at DA+HC–where they hold dance classes, yoga classes, and provide public performance space.

Kate’s take on community health was all about supporting community members in finding the full expression of our individual humanity.

“Community health is well being–expressing your full version of yourself,” she said. “It may not be a broken arm, but you have an incredible voice and you need a place to sing. Finding a place to sing brings you into the fullest version of you. And that is health.”

She also shared an interesting story about community revitalization. There was always a playground across from what used to be the abandoned public housing projects, that DA+HC remodeled and turned into mixed income housing with 5 units reserved for artists, plus the community space. People from the neighborhood never used the playground when it was across from an abandoned building. When the buildings were renovated, the playground was suddenly rediscovered. When we were there, teenage boys were playing basketball across the way, and two girls were playing in the playground. People mistakenly thanked Rebuild Foundation for building a playground that had been there before, but they had not seen–a community asset that disappeared from their awareness until the space around it became welcoming.

This made me think about how we can be blind to assets in the people and communities around us, when they exist alongside blight. Glass half empty or half full? Both. Sometimes we need something to transform our vision to be able to see what is already good around us.

Sometimes, simply looking for the assets can be all it takes to find them.

What assets have you found in the people and neighborhoods you are encountering this summer?

*Written by Dr Jones

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