Ken Shaw of Northwest Community College (NWCC) and guest Mark Lakeman, a Portland-based international leader in the development of sustainable public places, together ran workshops this past Saturday and Sunday at NWCC about ‘Placemaking’ in Prince Rupert.
Placemaking is the concept of reinventing public spaces as a social gathering site and reimagining business development and community interaction.
“We are hearing nothing but positive feedback [from those who attended]. This is what Rupert needs right now, we’re in a rebuilding and reimagining phase. We have been talking about reclaiming our parks for a long time, and this is the perfect vehicle to move that conversation into actualizing some of those ideas,” said Shaw on Saturday.
“We are focusing on general principles, so that community members have the tools so that this can be manifested throughout the community.”
The event drew close to 200 audience members in a Friday night lecture given by Lakeman, Shaw and others at the Lester Centre of the Arts and even more came out for the two-day workshops the following days.
“The whole idea is it is multicultural, and multi-generational. The more connections there are to people in habitat areas, the more likely it is [the community will] be successful,” Shaw added.
Lakeman elaborated on the beginnings of Placemaking, the general concept and the positive benefits.
“When we got started, our aspiration was to change the local and global perspective,” he said.
“We started off with this intention and desire, and we are learning our way along. We aren’t reinventing the wheel. A lot of what we are doing is what First Nations people are already doing. You just get involved in your community, you don’t call it volunteerism, and it’s just how you live.”
The renowned design expert went on to explain the benefits that Placemaking has on a community like Prince Rupert’s, which has experienced a decline in park usage due to empty lots, fields or removed playground equipment.
“To do it in the paradigm where everyone is specialized and separated, and everything is monetized, that works against these really essential principles that are actually turning out to be very restorative and inspiring. So now we are actually finding that we are affecting a lot of change. The essential strategies are building partnership cultures, meeting common goals, engaging civic culture, not villifying anyone in the process and figuring out ways for everyone to contribute,” Lakeman said.
“That is magic. There is all kinds of personal transformation that is involved – that is the coolest thing. That might be the thing that saves the world. Everyone thinks that it is an outward project, the magic that gets people sustaining their interests are all the personal benefits. What if you end up with a quieter mind at the end of the day because of all the good work you have been doing? You find all this satisfaction and meaning in doing real work. That changes the world. People are trying to find all this stuff outside of themselves, when it is really their engagement with other people. When [people] are isolated and disengaged from others, they are not learning collaboratively, as we are hard-wired to do. So of course we are going to be frustrated and confused.”
As Shaw and Lakeman discussed, when you reconnect with community members you might learn things that may help you in your life, and help you find some relaxation and satisfaction from helping others.
And then when you reconnect with nature the intrinsic benefits that come with that can be extremely positive.
Prince Rupert community members plan to put this concept into action, starting with a volunteer-based group retrofitting McKay Street Park.
Video credit: Shannon Lough