Whenever I travel (whether to the next city/town or far away), I enjoy discovering, exploring and connecting into local places that are vibrant hubs for creative community activity. On a recent break to Denmark and Albany on the south coast of WA I found three such places:
Centre for Sustainable Living (CSL), Denmark
I arrived at the centre and was greeted by the enticing smell of an Indian feast being cooked up in the centre’s kitchen, in preparation for a fundraising dinner being hosted their that night. No surprises I came back that evening to support the cause!
The centre is managed by Green Skills and a lot of great stuff happens there. I was visiting specifically to check out the community garden that’s been started (I think) in the last 6 months. A feature of the garden is a bush foods area where plants that will provide food during each of the six Nyungar seasons are being grown. I was struck by the ephemeral artwork that has been created as a centrepiece for this garden.
It’s not a new idea I know, but I’m currently feeling really excited about how community artwork (including ephemeral, impermanent works and performance) can help bring life to public places and I’m finding ways to incorporate more of this sort of process into my work with communities and places. Check out these lovely urban nests inhabiting the scaffolding of a building being renovated in Madrid for example.
A highlight of the CSL is a special place called the Sanctuary. Look at it – don’t you just want to spend time there!
I love the garden on the roof and, again, the artwork interwoven into the place that imbues it with story, life and colour.
The Tip Shop, Denmark
What’s a trip to Denmark without a visit to the Tip Shop I say? Some other time I’ll have to tell you about why I’m excited about waste and creative reuse. On this visit though, the thing that stayed with me most was being reminded of the diversity of types of places in our local communities that can become hubs where people can meet, connect and make interesting things happen. And how the principles of place making can be used to enhance such very different places – main streets, community gardens, small bars, public parks and tip shops!
At this one in Denmark, they’re working to expand the range of activities that happen there – one of the key strategies for attracting more people to visit and stay awhile. There’s a children’s sand pit play area, an education and training venue, the Tiporium Teahouse Sunday Session events, ‘junk’ musical instruments to play with, a casual tip shop ‘cafe’ and outdoor eating area is being set up and, of course, plenty of shopping for reuse goods and bits and pieces. Having this diversity of activity and uses bodes well for the future of this developing community hub.
It was a rainy afternoon when I visited the Rainbow Coast Neighbourhood Centre Community Garden. Arriving on foot, I actually walked past the garden because it’s set back from the road, but I was lucky enough to score a lift back to the right spot by a friendly staff member of the youth centre at the other end of the street (otherwise I would have been soaked!).
Only around a year old, the garden already has a lovely feel. Those involved in developing it have paid attention not only to getting the veges growing but also to creating a vibrant and interesting community place (again the contribution community artwork can make to building a sense of place is evident). The garden is one of the few in WA that I’ve heard have managed to grow enough surplus produce to warrant selling some off for fundraising (what a difference climate can make).
At the garden I met Mitch, who’s currently supervising Green Corp participants in the building of a large circular garden bed cut into quarters by pathways. One quarter will have a children’s sand pit and another a covered socialising area. Mitch mentioned that the following week he was booked to deliver his first public talk on what we need to do about climate change. It reminded me of how being involved in places like community gardens leads people to feel more inspired, empowered and interested in being active citizens. This is one of the reasons hubs like these are so important and special.
I’d love to hear about community hubs in your local area and why they work; how about posting a comment?