Space and Community Development

The other day, my friend Lynn and I ditched one of the conference keynote addresses to have breakfast at a cafe near the Odeon Theatre. We stumbled upon a place called Les Editeurs which had a really interesting literary interior and a great outdoor seating space. We sat next to each other at the table (as most of the cafes orient their outdoor seating – I think it’s a space consideration) facing a tree with a bunch of books hanging from its branches. It was a very cool piece of public art, particularly fitting for the cafe where we were. Having petit dejeuner there was one of my favorite moments in Paris.

Because the cafe is so much a part of what makes Paris Paris, I was really surprised that the organizers of this year’s IDEA conference did not include any cafe-like experiences for its participants. There were no communal tea times, meals, or spaces where conference participants could gather, chat, and linger over a cup of coffee.

So, I start thinking about these communal tea times. They are an important part of community development, right? In order to establish new relationships, you need a time and a space for these encounters to occur.

And, naturally, I thought about our work at Silver Kite. Perhaps we should open a space…

On the last day of the conference, I attended a poster presentation by a woman named Liliane from Rio de Janiero. She teaches at a university in Rio. In her courses, she encourages preservice teachers to engage in invisible theatre and community-based educational experiences as a way to think about connecting themselves and their students to their world. One of the projects she does includes having the students create what she calls a “personal cartography,” encouraging students to consider how they inhabit their city – what are the images, ideas, spaces, that makes the city “yours.” After designing the cartographies, she invites the students to play the cartographies in the city itself, creating individual performances throughout the city.

Liliane’s work helps her students own and inhabit the space, their city. Becoming more comfortable with it and feeling more deeply engaged with the place where they live, work, and play.

This connection between space and community development is something I am going to keep thinking about, particularly in how it relates to Silver Kite’s work.

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