The Version Festival is an annual month-long community arts event, which takes places in the city of Chicago. Since the year 2000 it has introduced innovative projects that address local social and urban issues. Promoting the cultural use of public space.
In its 12th edition, in 2012, the main scene was Bridgeport, a Chicago’s neighborhood. WELCOME TO BRIDGEPORT “THE COMMUNITY OF THE FUTURE”. The aim was to create temporary pop-ups as small business incubators. And then using this spaces as bases to drive the cultural and economic change for the neighborhood.
The main goal with this reference is to learn about the cultural and economic strategy that could inspire our neighborhood, to become in a really “Economic-Culture point of interest”, as is defined.
1 SOCIO – CULTURAL – ECONOMIC CONTEXT
Bridgeport is one of the 77 community areas of Chicago. Is located on the city’s South Side with 31.925 habitants, according to the 2010 census.
Much of the neighborhood was initially an Irish-American enclave. In the 1830s many Irish immigrants went to Chicago and they settled down in this working-class district. But Bridgeport has also been home to a large number of other groups, many Lithuanuan-Americans, Mexican-Americans and Chinise-Americans. It’s one of the Chicago’s most diverse neighborhoods.
As a consequence, the area developed a constant racial tension and therefore it has been a bad reputation for the city for many decades. Due to this “fame”, the place has been transformed in an insular area in the middle of Chicago, without any attractive for the citizens of the surrounding neighborhoods.
Obviously this affects to the local commerce. If there is not variety of consumers the local economy cannot be developed properly. Many retails have been closed for that reason.
Recently, the situation is changing. Now a story of artistic and cultural revolution is unfolding in the area. Bridgeport is a new neighborhood in flux.
A growing population of artists has helped to build a burgeoning integrated arts community in the neighborhood through galleries, art spaces and new businesses. At the same time the residents are coming together to highlight and show to Chicago, “the potential of the neighborhood”.
The 12th edition of the Version Festival is one of the examples that demonstrate what is happening.
2 PREVIOUS STATE controversies
The main controversies have developed from the ethnic differences, just explained, summarizing:
-The place has been transformed in an insular area in the middle of Chicago.
-Many shops have been closed due to the lack of activity.
-And finally, it’s a neighborhood in flux, which needs help to advertise its potential. The place should be transformed in a “point of interest” for Chicago, to bring new people to Bridgeport.
Version Festival is an annual arts festival produced by the Public Media Institute. “PMI” is a community arts & culture organization located in Chicago, Illinois.
“Our mission is to create and incubate innovative arts programming and cultural infrastructures to transform people – socially and intellectually – through the production of festivals, art spaces, events, exhibitions, community projects, artifacts and media.”
In the 12th edition the neighborhood of Bridgeport was the principal scene, so also their citizens were acting as an important protagonists.
The fundamental agents involved in the project are:
-Public Media Institute as organizer.
-Bridgeport neighborhood where the event was developed.
-Neighborhood residents as viewers and participants.
– City of Chicago as viewers and participants.
-Local community of artists and creative, who collaborated in that edition.
– Guest of the Public Media Institute (cultural workers, community developers, entrepreneurs, artists, designers, foodies, public space hackers, urban planners, cultural geographers, and everyone dreamers) who collaborated.
-Business owners in Bridgeport who profited of the event.
“WELCOME TO BRIDGEPORT” The community of the future
The original idea became with Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar, a very popular place in the area, a space to bring ethnically and socially diverse groups together. This is how a small group of artists in Bridgeport felt it was the time to showcase the initiatives in the neighborhood and explore the potential for new individual and family-owned businesses. The Vision Festival was the opportunity to do it.
For the Bridgeport edition, the PMI invited cultural workers, community developers, entrepreneurs, artists, designers, foodies, public space hackers, urban planners, cultural geographers, and everyone dreamed to swarm a neighborhood and transform it.
Deviating lightly from what has been done in previous years, that year’s Version Festival was devoted to setting a stage for the many art creations and ideas from residents of Bridgeport.
It was a kind of collaborative and collective effort to showcasing the neighborhood. They invited and tried to bring people from around the city to show them what Bridgeport can offer.
“The whole purpose of the festival is to prove to people who live here and people from outside that there [are] plenty of opportunities to provide services or environments for the people who live here to enjoy”
Using the festival as a social, art and business incubator. Creating a various platforms where the community artists and the citizens worked in the future projects and businesses in the neighborhood.
1 STRATEGIES – STEPS
Firstly they created an association, with the mission of identify and aid local commerce in Bridgeport. Remember, that the aim was to create the attractive of the neighborhood using the potential of the trades.
With the help of various artists and residents, the organization collected ideas to create and plan the event.
The festival opened 12 temporary spaces, businesses and enterprises to be used as an incubator of the change. The initiatives included:
-A bookstore, because they didn’t have one.
-A music performance space.
-Nomadic collaborative restaurants and community kitchen, where residents could go for cooking lessons.
-A neighborhood tourism bureau.
-A donut shop / art gallery.
-Couple of exhibition spaces for artists and designers.
-The launch of the Small Manufacturing Alliance (SMALL) for a new organization of artists who make locally manufactured products
-A small pop-up showroom that featured and sold manufactured items by artists in the community
-Launch the publication Mash Tun: A Craft Beer Journal
And also they created Bridgeport’s own holiday, “Bridgeport Day”.
The event was placed for a month, time where they were raising money from the incubator pop-ups. These funds were designated to help the trade association. With the action of the innovative temporal business they could create a series of reaction local commerce to drive it.
The creation of these temporary spaces and events, are intended to bring a positive outlook to the neighborhood.
With the growing population of artists in the neighborhood have been many cultural and demographic transformations. The Version Festival made for one month that the streets of the area became the main scene of this changes.
This year they celebrated their first Bridgeport Day, the celebration brought together organizations, neighbors, residents and families.
There has been an identifiable change in Bridgeport’s character, as more residents of Chicago are discovering its potential.
Definitely, I think that this festival is using a potent strategy, because at the same time they are highlighting the potential of the neighborhood and incubating their culture and economy.
“WELCOME TO BRIDGEPORT The community of the future: To celebrate the neighborhood we love and call home!”
This is the message that they are sending, and the identity that is being generated. Now the area is the “community of the future”.
In our case, we have a prefect platform to try to do the same. Our roundabout offers 5.344 m2 frees, in the middle of the commercial axis, with a maximum visibility from any point. Furthermore with the thousands of people who pass by each day converts it a space that advertised itself. Why not use it as an incubator of the neighborhood?