This is the third column in a series about loving cities, neighborhoods, or communities. My source for the information is Peter Kageyama’s book For the Love of Cities. We have explored the continuum of engagement and the importance of an emotional attachment to the place where we live.
He believes if we examined who really builds, contributes to, and essentially “makes” a city, we would find citizens who have an emotional connection with the city. The city as a whole is made by a relatively small number of “co-creators” who, in their role as entrepreneurs, activists, artists, performers, students, organizers, and “concerned citizens,” create most of the experiences we consume.
Most of these co-creators build on existing elements like infrastructure and institutions and collaborate with others to make new things. I think of Ella Duke of the Propagate House or Caitlyn Kasheta now working with Ella to put on wonderful, much needed festivals in downtown Apopka. Lockhart’s Lindsay Smestad learned more about festivals from Caitlyn Kasheta. Lindsay and I are working on the Lockhart 150th Anniversary Celebration held on November 18th. Lockhartian Greg Mellowe shepherded a historical marker through a laborious state process to erect Lockhart’s first marker. Jean Ford and her husband started an Apopka running club chock full of engaging events. Through that organization they adopted Votaw Road for trash clean-ups. Finally, the Downtown Barbers recruited artists to paint an alley way off US 441. All these individuals are co-creators and have made a tremendous difference in their communities.
Lovable people are passionate and committed to friends, neighbors, and community. They are creators of the elements which make a place truly special. Their emotional connection is making the difference between others merely consuming the city and the city offering one-of-a-kind events. Their presence can be the difference between a city that is “loved” and a city that is merely “lived in”.
I think back to the pandemic when we were all told to stay home. I believed I should still produce something of value. And that I did! I wrote five Driving Tours (Eastern Apopka, Lockhart, Central Apopka, Northwestern Orange County, Southern District) with the help of Leigh Blackwelder and my dedicated staff. These driving tours direct folks to fun, free, and distinct places. The Driving Tours certainly have created a greater love for our communities. Does that make me a co-creator? I’m not sure, but it sure was a fun project to develop.
Author Peter Kageyama describes these small groups of people in love with their city or community as the “unobtanium” (from Avatar) of communities. They are more precious than gold and just as rare. They represent an incredibly powerful force for change. In fact, small increases or losses of these co-creators may ultimately be the difference between a city that thrives or dies. We must foster and support all our co-creators.
Let’s ask ourselves who are these champions or co-creators. How do we increase their numbers? Most importantly, how do we keep them engaged in our city? The quality of our community life depends on those co-creators working to their highest potential.
More to come in the fourth of the series on For the Love of Cities.