Continual Maintenance

Honesdale’s building stock is imbued with past energies. We’re lucky in that way. Much that once was remains on full display, standing like inspirational guideposts within the local landscape. These markers, be they smooth sidewalk stones, ornate home porches, or waning industry outposts share space through time and connect us to multi-generational neighborhoods.

Stewardship of these resources is an active and ongoing process. As extensions of us, our buildings can be equally alive but we must provide life to keep them upright. Older structures can still share value, like the basic shelter and useful space inherent in their form/design. They’re already here and a lot went into their formation so it’s worthwhile and economical to keep them intact.

Everything that went into a space’s creation and everything created within it is a gift. It played host to the past, sits in the present, and remains useful as remix fuel to efficiently support future endeavors. These are existing resources, native to our neighborhoods but utilizing them to their fullest takes a payment of tribute. A small offering of maintenance and use. That’s the responsibility of a building steward and it’s a fair exchange for what’s been given to us.

This is a relationship. Without respectful balance, there can be instability. Something falling or burning or being torn down is a symptom, not singularly caused by accidental or intentional acts, however. One generation unaccounted for could be enough. Roofs caving in, water damage, and errant sparks can all lead to demolition. Vigilance is needed in prevention but less the reactionary kind that imposes stricter control and a blame of confrontational street art. Community assessment that allows for continual conversations is more proactively diligent.

Discussion of questions like…

  • Why have certain buildings remained unoccupied for decades?

  • Where do our neighbors without homes find places to sleep?

  • How does something from the 1940s get neglected then re-imagined as a hub for vibrant graffiti?

  • Was a secret, forested amphitheater-meadow at dead-ended Olive Street more productively alive with someone camping there than it was when the last business closed?

  • What happens when a space attracts the “unauthorized” hang-out attention of our next generation?

  • Can a place be more fruitfully used, via choice over obligation, by “trespassing vandals” than by nobody, as an otherwise abandoned shell?

  • Might a place lead a more beneficial existence in an “unofficial” capacity, alternative to the example set by a previous, “official” utilization?

… are parts of conversations we like having on a regular basis.

What we create within the community is part of a continuum. It’s not only easier to utilize what we’ve got before building completely anew; it’s more respectful of local character and heritage. With a universe of opportunity in every project, we’re not limiting our creative options when we maximize the use of existing resources.

Why not re-activate under-utilized nooks hidden in plain sight before building something fresh? Why not keep old buildings you can already see the blue sky through alive by developing pathways for them to be sold or gifted away, instead of waiting until they become a pile of debris deeded to somebody with other priorities? Is there room to question what it means to own portions of our landscape and regularly remind each other how important it is to provide care for the same?

What other buildings that currently exist would we miss if they were no longer around? If they’re valuable to us beyond surveyed fence lines and outside what is legally “ours” and “theirs”, are they not part of our shared existence? Would we challenge our notions of what healthy and resilient neighborhoods look like if it meant more brick gets left standing? Or are we, as Peter Hall wonders, “… saddled with the previous generation’s value judgments… ?” We’re open to questioning these things and questioning ourselves in the process.

One way to see preposterous public drawings and phrases is as vandalism. Another, is as under-valued pockets of opportunity being highlighted and potential being realized. Narrowly scanning the horizon for the next batch of spray-painted peeni (or penises) and reporting skateboarding movements to a neighborhood watch feels like focusing on a single, back building wall, while blinding ourselves to the rest of town. We think there are more holistic concerns than the crimes investigated in American Vandal.

There can be cycles of death and rebirth in an approximately 75-year, structural life. After decades of vacancy, what appears to be a disrespectful paint job may in fact be the opposite; the acceptance of a gifted guidepost as a place worth being in again. Cherishing a beautiful space can come in many forms. Rediscovering potential beneath decay is celebrated when it’s more thoroughly understood. Is a vacant building getting tagged worse than that same building staying unnoticed and eventually crumbling? Perhaps new color additions are natural signs of a living community and neighborhood reclamation.

Olive Street, End Meadow - April, 2013

Olive Street, End Meadow - April, 2013

Another New Year

Thanks to everyone who attended and followed along with the NYE Ball and Dance Party we put on with Black & Brass at 6th & River.

Events like this aren’t just for everybody, they are everybody’s. What’s created is what engaged participants make of it. Any given project we work on is a single piece of a grander inspiration cycle, featuring connection points to shared space and time, meant to be experienced, then carried forward as personally or collectively desired.

Specifically, this dance party and ball was designed to be enjoyed in whatever ways we cho(o)se. It was a happening that incinerated in the moment, leaving dust we all danced ourselves clean of before heading back home to a new year. As always, some sparks remain, to be ushered on down the line of inspiration cycles to come. What’s next for all of us?

May the creative boundaries between producers and consumers continue to morph and contract in 2019. The greater canvas of the local landscape is vast and filled with abundance. Events and projects like this one are as much yours as ours. That’s just the way we like it in festivaltown, Honesdale. Happy New Year.

New Year’s Eve bar by Here & Now and grooves by DJ Jus’ Boogie.

Spatial design lead: Lisa.

Party photos above and below by Jack Kingston.

Landscape Nooks

A scan of the horizon offers an abundance of opportunity. Each frame of reference highlights creative potential. Slightly shifted perspectives and the application of engaged participation within the landscape can transform what is and what was into what we’d like something to be.

nook activation.png

This can be a temporal re-framing, activating a nook in time. This can be a spatial re-framing, activating a nook in three-dimensional space. This can be a programmatic re-framing, activating a nook with alternative uses. Any and all and more are part of what’s freely and commonly available.

Take a stroll around your neighborhood. Note how it currently exists. Uncover how is previously existed. Consider what it could be going forward. Ask yourself, what if Honesdale (or your neighborhood) … ? How can things be made better by you and your neighbors, for combined benefit?

Discovering the answers to these questions is empowering. Once nooks of opportunity are identified, they can be found everywhere and we all have agency for change within us. It’s an inclusive, permission-less ability shared in an open source environment.

Someone answers one question with the community in mind; then, all of a sudden, you’re in the teller line for a banking errand and the village backdrop is a lot more engaging than it once was. An elevated, downstream-facing, slightly hidden, vertical space has been transformed in an unexpected way.

Making a deposit in front of large, historic windows becomes exciting, like stepping into an alternate dimension. The commonplace all around us that once felt static and gray becomes alive with color. An objective, experiential pleasure doubles as a reminder. There are nooks all around us, ready for activation.

We can build things up without tearing things down. What is it you’d like to create out of your and your community’s innate potential?

Alley Dreaming

Their nature is that of an active afterthought. Alley equaling Access to something. Alley equaling Connection to intent. Alley equaling Space set aside for the present's purpose. They exist as a usable remnant of the past. Something built then and used now. Our landscape and relationships within it constantly change.

Former canal boat unloading zones have become tenant parking. Room for sewer line maintenance has become a back patio. Alleys reflect opportunity manifest. Reminders that everything can be re-imagined and any under-utilized nook can be brought back to life. Existing energy can be remixed, so history can be carried into the future, simultaneously creating something both old and new.

A town is made of people and their efforts. The sum and the parts evolve over time, not unlike a river meandering or forest in succession. Labels erected to define the "built environment" against the "natural world" do us few favors. Things are more connected. It's all nature.

How might we reactivate dormant community spaces? How might we respectfully design our towns in ways that recognize all inhabitants and their place in a grander whole? Alleys can remind us of our shared and changing nature.

What would you like to create in the community and when do you want to get started on it? All around us, resources and inspiration are in bloom. Everything is already changing, so we might as well kick off our shoes, get to the harvest, and meet back up later to share stories at the potluck.

Festival Boundaries

What are the boundaries of the place we call Honesdale? Community boundaries can be defined by a zip code, polling place, shopping preferences, family homestead, or something else entirely. Sometimes boundaries are clearly expressed and other times entirely amorphous. Definitions can change over time or depending on who you ask or under what context.

This is partly the nature of making maps. No maps fully illustrate reality. All maps are a representation of reality, capturing a concept or phenomenon or feeling. There's a certain mystery in that and it balances out the perceived authority any given map portrays.

Connections to our community grow vertically as well as horizontally. That's why Honesdale's boundary can be described in a fairly straightforward way (in municipal government terms) yet, equally described in an intangible way (in terms of community identity). The H'dale boundary map we recently made illustrates this dichotomy.

Portion of the Honesdale Boundary Analysis map.

Portion of the Honesdale Boundary Analysis map.

We're fans of reality's hidden layers, nooked within the habitat of our human-built environment. Our Maps page is full of examples. Our event and festival projects are equally steered into these open spaces. Driven by a shared inspiration cycle designed to create something out of nothing yet, anything out of everything else, each festival or event is an attempt to activate a shaded corner of our shared universe in the 18431. That brings us to the Canaltown Moving Movie Festival.

Our new festival might be easy to describe in terms of what it is (a movie festival) but it'll be tough to draw a boundary around. This fest will take place at multiple venues throughout town. Attendees will be able to see every movie by watching sets in whatever order they like and choosing their own festival adventure. Like Spookyfest, there will be international selections alongside local creations, albeit exploded into chunks and coordinated for multi-part discovery downtown.

Moving Movie Festival logo draft

Moving Movie Festival logo draft

The Moving Movie Festival map may look different every year and the schedule may eventually cover multiple days but the plan is to make it feel like the whole town is alive and collectively "up to something" each and every time. This year is round one of connecting the dots in new and exciting ways.

Downtown Movies

Like in many places, going out to the movies disappeared here for awhile. Honesdale's grand, Main Street portal to the celluloid frontier was disassembled years ago. The pieces were spread out among movie rental shops and home theater systems, while the site itself became a gas station convenience mart. Eventually, a local mini-plex brought the silver screen back to the outskirts of town. The inherently local connection to movies in the heart of our community, however, was lost.

There's a lot to be said for a movie theater on your Main Street.

In some cases, it's a testament to legacy preservation. Old town theaters were 'the' source of entertainment at one time. To keep a theater standing through the generation of investment and engagement that favored highways and spreading out over town centers and focusing on what you've got takes commitment.

In some cases, it's a testament to perseverance. There are likely as many, if not more ways to enjoy cinematic creations than there are theaters in any given, regional geography. To keep a theater operational through the generation of home and mobile entertainment takes even more commitment and passion.

Choosing to go out the movies is choosing to connect with the universe through the creative use of lights and sound, alongside your friends and neighbors. This involves an openness to explore and share with a group and this involves the focused attention we're easily distracted away from at home. These are the seeds of community engagement being germinated. Germination by active participation, rooted in choosing to do something more involved and demanding of yourself than other options.

What if we recreated our community's culture of cinema by rebuilding our downtown movie-going infrastructure? A special movie event here... a showing of something unique there... an annual film festival a few blocks in that direction... What if we collected the pieces spread out years ago and reassembled them into something new that's reminiscent of something old?

What might that look like within our local landscape? We've got some ideas. Where could that lead? We'd like to find out by activating some nooks and projection-lighting up the alleyways of the ol' 18431.