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Today I’m continuing my exploration of Faith/Arts Cohabitation with a quick tour of two great spaces in Philadelphia. In October 2017, I was there working with ArtsBuild Ontario, Faith & the Common Good and the Toronto Arts Council (funded by the Metcalf Foundation) examining a variety of working models for mutual support between arts and faith groups.
Playwright Marcus Youssef upon accepting this year’s Siminovitch Prize for playwriting gave a speech that clarified my interest in the intersection of faith communities with the broader community. Youssef wrote about his interest in points of intersection and the space between people, spoken and unspoken.
Since the 1980’s I’ve been travelling into and hanging out on every “Main Street” I come across from one side of this vast land to the other. Then, I worked for the National Trust’s (then Heritage Canada Foundation) Main Street Canada initiative that was being implemented in over 100 towns and cities. That experience altered my life and perspective on communities forever.
In my ongoing work with the National Trust’s Main Street program, so much of what I do is seeking people out, hearing their stories and helping them understand what Main Street is about. Main Street is about more than buildings: it’s about people.
When I tell people my job at the National Trust is all about promoting and supporting the regeneration of historic sites, I get some puzzled looks. For us heritage types who use the Standards and Guidelines, we can understand that regeneration includes all the activities under the conservation umbrella. But for most people, the light bulb only really goes off when I say that our objective is to revitalize historic sites in a sustainable way that makes them relevant to today’s society.