Public Engagement

Doors Open RI Festival

September 2017

The inaugural Doors Open RI Festival launched on Saturday, September 23rd in Providence. For one magical day we shared the keys of the city with its people. The free citywide open house welcomed over 4,000 visitors behind-the-scenes of 24 places of architectural, cultural and historical significance.

Curious visitors climbed into the attic of City Hall, peered into famous hidden vaults, sat at the Mayor’s desk, examined specimens and saw an industrial loom in action. They experienced the inner workings of our public radio station, ventured inside the brightly colored Box Office and inside the drill hall of the vacant Cranston St. Armory. Each location was activated with special programming and interpretation made available to visitors without tickets or reservations.

The Festival is the signature event of Doors Open RI, a new program that connects people to local places of cultural, historical and architectural significance in an effort to bridge communities and inspire new perspectives on our cities. In partnership with cultural and community organizations across the state, we organize behind-the-scenes access to Rhode Island’s best-kept secrets through innovative programs and tours planned throughout the year.

Doors Open Rhode Island was launched through a 2016 Embark Fellowship I received from the Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University. I am the Founder and Director of Doors Open RI, and organize our programs with the help of three interns, an advisory board and countless amazing volunteers.

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Funeral for the Fogarty Building

March 2017

On Friday March 17, we gathered around the open casket of the recently passed Fogarty Building in downtown Providence to say goodbye. Only 49 years old, the Fogarty was our most significant brutalist building in downtown Providence. Built as the home for RI’s department of Health and Human Services, soon it will be replaced by a hotel.

The building had some friends and many foes, we heard from both in eulogies delivered by several people who knew the building best. After the funeral we processed around the building with our kazoos to a nearby watering hole to reflect on the life of our friend and changes in our city.

I conceived of this this program which was then organized in partnership with Doors Open RIJohn Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and the Providence Preservation Society. The Funeral for the Fogarty Building was conceived of, planned and executed in less than one week. It was inspired by Temple Contemporary’s Funeral for a Home in Philadelphia.

Read our obituary for the Fogarty Building which was published in the Providence Journal. Curious about planning a funeral for a building in your community? Check out the Toolkit on planning funerals for buildings that the National Trust for Historic Preservation put together from lessons learned through our Fogarty building funeral here in Providence.

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Seattle Architecture Foundation: Neighborhood Program Development

Summer 2015

Responding to a board identified need and excitement for new Seattle Architecture Foundation (SAF) neighborhood-based programming, I led a summer-long process of open and honest dialogue with community leaders and design professionals on how SAF could most benefit Seattle neighborhoods. On behalf of SAF, I met with a total of 26 individuals representing 23 organizations across six Seattle neighborhoods to advise the design of a new program series and writing of a detailed report of future programmatic recommendations for SAF.

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Seattle Architecture Foundation: Ask an Architect

Summer 2015

On behalf of the Seattle Architecture Foundation, I organized an “Ask an Architect” program as part of a Seattle Public Library pop-up event themed around the topic of “Seattle 2035”. Under the backdrop of Rem Koolhaas’s world-famous downtown library, architects from Callison’s office perused the crowds armed with sketchbooks, answering the public’s questions about architecture. People decorated the building with their drawings of Seattle’s future as they jived to live music provided by Love City Love. A good time was had by all.

 


Providence Preservation Society: Endangered Places, Emerging Stories (MEP20)

Spring 2015

Over the course of 10 weeks I explored 20 buildings featured on the Providence Preservation Society’s (PPS) Most Endangered Properties (MEP) list in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the MEP program. In an effort to create dialogue and build community around preservation in the city, I blogged and tweeted my way through Providence.

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Providence Preservation Society: Spring Public Programs

Spring 2015

In celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Providence Preservation Society’s (PPS) Endangered Properties Program (MEP), I organized a spring program series featuring several of the buildings on the MEP list. The programs ranged from a tour of micro-living in downtown Providence to a panel discussion about a church’s plans to transform into the country’s first museum dedicated to the transatlantic slave trade. It’s unsurprising that everyone’s favorite program featured both beer and time travel. Equipped with a stereopticon, 100 pairs of 3D glasses and a silver screen, historian Ned Conners led a boisterous 3D exploration into 19th century Providence at a local bar.


Chicago Architecture Foundation: Open House Chicago

Winter 2011 to Spring 2014

I helped launch and eventually managed the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s highest profile program, Open House Chicago (OHC). OHC is a free public event that offers behind-the-scenes access to over 150 great spaces and places across Chicago. The largest architecture event in the city, 55,000 visitors attended in 2013 (our third year). Since I left my position to attend grad school, the event has grown into the largest citywide open house festival in the world with over 100,000 visitors across 200 sites in 2016.

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Community Engagement

Seattle Architecture Foundation: Neighborhood Program Development

Summer 2015

Responding to a board identified need and excitement for new Seattle Architecture Foundation (SAF) neighborhood-based programming, I led a summer-long process of open and honest dialogue with community leaders and design professionals on how SAF could most benefit Seattle neighborhoods. On behalf of SAF, I met with a total of 26 individuals representing 23 organizations across six Seattle neighborhoods to advise the design of a new program series and writing of a detailed report of future programmatic recommendations for SAF.

LEARN MORE >

 


Providence Preservation Society: Endangered Places, Emerging Stories (MEP20)

Spring 2015

Over the course of 10 weeks I explored 20 buildings featured on the Providence Preservation Society’s (PPS) Most Endangered Properties (MEP) list in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the MEP program. In an effort to create dialogue and build community around preservation in the city, I blogged and tweeted my way through Providence.

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Writing


George C. Arnold

Endangered Places, Emerging Stories was a project I undertook on behalf of the Providence Preservation Society (PPS) in celebration of the 20th anniversary of their Most Endangered Properties (MEP) program. Over the course of 10 weeks I explored 20 buildings featured on the MEP list: success stories, losses and many buildings that continue to struggle. In an effort to create a community dialogue around preservation and the built environment in the city, I blogged and tweeted my way through Providence.

ppsri.org/mep20

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calderflamingoBLUEPRINT: Chicago is an educational architecture blog with a Chicago focus. I created this blog to be a platform to share the stories of Chicago’s buildings, both famous and forgotten. The audience includes architecture experts and newcomers alike. BLUEPRINT features over 50 buildings and 30 architectural terms.

In the two years it was active, BLUEPRINT received 100,000 visits and was covered by the likes of Architect Magazine, Chicago Magazine and the Chicago Reader.

blueprintchicago.org

 


 

Open House Chicago

Open House Chicago

The Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Open House Chicago (OHC) is an annual free public festival that offers behind-the-scenes access to over 150 buildings across Chicago. OHC invites residents and visitors to explore the hidden gems and architectural treasures of Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods all for free.

The third-annual Open House Chicago took place over the weekend of October 19-20, 2013. In two days, more than 55,000 individuals made 194,000 site visits to repurposed mansions, secret rooms, private clubs, sacred spaces, hotels, offices, iconic theaters and more. Attendees came from all 50 states and 71 countries across the globe.

Over the course of over three years, I helped launch and eventually managed OHC, the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s highest profile program and the largest architecture event in the city.

openhousechicago.org

OHC 2013 Event Guide Printed and Distributed by Chicago Tribune

click to download 2013 event guide

 

OHC 2013 Facts and Figures
  • 55,000 individuals made 194,000 site visits
  • Attendees came from all 50 states and 71 countries
  • 1,300 volunteers donated over 8,000 hours
  • 500,000 copies of the OHC 2013 Event Guide printed and distributed by the Chicago Tribune
  • 27,000 people visited a new neighborhood as a result of OHC
  • Average event rating was 4.5 out of 5
  • 92% of local participants said OHC made them proud to be a Chicagoan
  • Total economic impact $5.1 Million 
150 cool places. 48 hours. Go. It’s Free!

 

 

 


 

*Unless otherwise noted, all photos courtesy of the Chicago Architecture Foundation

SAF Neighborhood Program Development


logoResponding to a Board-identified need and excitement for new Seattle Architecture Foundation neighborhood-based programming, this program proposal is the culmination of an in-depth process of open and honest dialogue with community leaders and design professionals on how SAF could most benefit Seattle neighborhoods. On behalf of SAF, I met with a total of 26 individuals representing 23 organizations across six Seattle neighborhoods to advise on what a new neighborhood-based program needs to achieve. The program proposed here aims to further SAF’s mission of connecting people to the architecture and design of Seattle and empower individuals to make a difference in their communities.

Over the course of the summer I learned a great deal about the issues effecting Seattle neighborhoods and what a neighborhood program should try to accomplish. This proposal focuses on the one program that best addresses the most commonly voiced themes of importance by community leaders. A longer report detailing community feedback was presented to SAF staff.

COMMUNITY LEADERS HOPE THAT A NEW SAF NEIGHBORHOOD PROGRAM WILL FOCUS ON:*

POSITIVITY
Design professionals and community leaders are tired of the (often) negative dialogue around architecture and design. SAF could help reframe this dialogue to focus on what people do like about their changing neighborhoods.

PRO-ACTIVE DESIGN SOLUTIONS
Currently too much of the dialogue around design is reactionary. Residents complain about the heights of the new condo towers going up in their neighborhoods as they are being built, when they should have been at the zoning meetings that made these heights possible in the first place. A new SAF program could help residents be pro-active when it comes to the design of their neighborhoods.

OUTCOMES
Seattle residents are weary of being asked their opinions on matters without the promise of their wants and needs being translated into outcomes. SAF needs to give residents the tools and resources on how to turn their opinions into actions.

BUILDING COMMUNITY
The most common means of connecting design professionals to the public is through community council and design review board meetings, both of which are (typically) viewed as negative experiences by all involved. It’s recommended that SAF offer programming that connects the public to design professionals in a fun, open and positive way.

WELCOMING NEWCOMERS TO SEATTLE
Seattle’s population is growing rapidly and many are conflicted about it. SAF might help combat the Seattle “freeze” with programming that welcomes these newcomers.

INSPIRING PEOPLE OF COLOR TO BECOME ARCHITECTS
Architecture, as a profession, should reflect more diversity. SAF should continue to make every effort to inspire young girls and people of color to join the design field by recruiting women and architects of color to lead design activities in underserved neighborhoods.

*While other themes of importance were raised in community discussions, this list only features themes that were mentioned on more than one occasion.

 


program development4

 

PROPOSAL

NEIGHBORHOOD EXCHANGE PROGRAM
Centering on themes of positive change and proactive design solutions, the Neighborhood Exchange Program connects community leaders to each other and to design professionals in a fun and welcoming atmosphere. This proposed series of neighborhood programs focuses on the best of Seattle’s changing built environment. SAF will play the role of matchmaker, organizing behind-the-scenes experiences of community-driven projects, featuring the key people involved in making them happen, and targeted to community leaders who might consider implementing similar projects in their own neighborhoods. Programs will be designed around community-based issues, and will incorporate time for discussions where community leaders across the city can offer their input around the day’s topic. Following each program, everyone will be invited to continue the conversation at a local bar.

This program received board approval, and has grown into a popular monthly series for the SAF. Read about their most recent Neighborhood Exchange programs here.

 


The idea for this program first came from a meeting with Amanda Bryan of the Central Area’s Land Use Review Committee and was further inspired by the great work of a colleague, Krisann Rehbein, former Senior Manager of Public and Community Engagement at the Chicago Architecture Foundation.


 

THE FOLLOWING INDIVIDUALS INFORMED THE DEVELOPMENT OF THIS PROPOSAL:

Alliance for Pioneer Square, Liz Stenning
Ballard Historical Society, Mary Schile
Capitol Hill Housing, Katie Porter
CityClub, Diane Douglas
Central Area Land Use Review Committee, Amanda Bryan
El Centro, Estela Ortega
FeetFirst, Lisa Quinn
Goodspeed Architecture, Jim Goodspeed
Great City, Kyler Danielson
Hack the CD, David Harris
Historic Seattle, Brooke Best and Larry Kreisman
InterIM ID, Joann Ware
MOHAI, Karin Moughamer
National Trust Green Lab, Mike Powe
Perkins + Will, Mike Austin (Seattle Planning Commission)
Plymouth Housing Group, Kimberly Harrell and Theresa Hohman
Schemata Workshop, Grace Kim (Seattle Planning Commission)
SCIDpda, Cara Bertron
Seattle Public Library, Davida Ingram
South Lake Union Art Walk, Dena Lee
SvR Design, Amanda Bailey and Brice Maryman
Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, Chris Moore
Y at Cascade People’s Center, Hannah Holtgeerts

Endangered Places, Emerging Stories

I undertook the Endangered Places, Emerging Stories project, nicknamed MEP20, on behalf of the Providence Preservation Society (PPS) in celebration of the 20th anniversary of their Most Endangered Properties (MEP) program. Over the course of 10 weeks I explored 20 buildings featured on the MEP list: success stories, losses and many buildings that continue to struggle. In an effort to create a community dialogue around preservation and the built environment, I blogged and tweeted (under the PPS handle @pvdpreservation) my way through Providence from March through May of 2015.

Learn More about this project by reading about it on the National Council for Public History’s History@Work blog.

ppsri.org/mep20

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 3.49.51 PM

BUILDING COMMUNITY

Providence’s historic architecture is one of the city’s greatest assets, yet important buildings are constantly threatened with demolition and re-development. This project was a means of connecting the public to, and inspiring their investment in, our built environment. This goal comes from an understanding that community collaboration is central to any successful preservation effort.

Community_3a

Over the course of 10 weeks I met with several community leaders, building owners, residents, librarians and archivists to help tell the story of 20 endangered properties. I also turned to PPS’s twitter following to solve mysteries, share stories, and build a dialogue around Providence’s endangered properties.

The most successful and engaging blog posts, such as on the Phenix Iron Foundry and Fruit Hill School, were almost entirely produced through information provided by PPS’s twitter and Facebook followers.


SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT

In an effort to build community around preservation in Providence, the MEP20 project focused heavily on engaging the public through social media. During the ten weeks of the MEP20 project, PPS’s twitter presence exploded as seen in an increase of 25% in followers, 134% in retweets and 3750% in replies. In a short period of time a digital community was built around preservation. Hopefully PPS will be able to continue to build this community, as a foundation for advocacy, for years to come.

twitter graph

 

DUOtweetsBThe chart below compares the twitter engagement seen in the 10 weeks before and 10 weeks during the MEP20 project. From retweets to replies, twitter engagement increased remarkably, demonstrating the growth of a PPS digital community.

twitter_analytics

 

 

 

 

 

INFORMATION ARCHIVE

A great deal of research went into the MEP20 project, whether through interviewing community leaders and building owners, digging through the city archives, or through social media. All of the information uncovered has been archived for future use of PPS and the public on ppsri.org/mep20.  Additional information can be found in the following places:

soundcloud-logoListen to a series of short interviews collected at Endangered Properties around Providence. Audio stories include everything from the inside scoop about living in one of the Arcade microlofts from a resident, to a chance encounter with a former Gorham Manufacturing security guard.

 

Storify_iconProvidence twitter followers are a knowledgeable crowd! People shared newspaper clippings, historic photographs, their own memories, and ideas for re-purposing struggling buildings on twitter. A complete archive of these tweets, organized by building, can be found on PPS’s new Storify account.