Even before human beings walked upright, quality of life was the key to contentment. That early satisfaction was likely based on simply having a full stomach and a safe, warm place to sleep. As society evolved, priorities multiplied and became more complex, but even today, most people will agree that the trifecta of peace, love, and understanding is essential to happiness — regardless of race, creed, or socio-economic status.
Social bonds are harder to establish than ever before, with fewer and fewer people interacting face-to-face every year. And yet, community art projects still seem to one of the best vehicles for transforming strangers into friends and building personal relationships that benefit everyone.
Mi Casa Es Su Casa
From inception through completion, the more people who contribute to community art projects the better. Art projects are ideal for building community bonds because art can be viewed from at least as many different perspectives as politics can — without all the serious conflict. In fact, the more diversified the artistic expression in these ventures, the more successful it tends to be. And when everyone contributes to the conception and execution of a project, the pride in and protection of that project take center stage.
The Appeal of Public Spaces
Over the years, interaction with strangers has become virtually nonexistent. You can shop for everything from socks and underwear to fully prepared gourmet meals online, watch new and old movies at home, and find friends and lovers on your smartphone. Community art projects require face-to-face interaction, which people find surprisingly satisfying when they try it out. Remember the joy of farmers’ markets, street festivals, and other outdoor events that required conversing with strangers? That magic is still there, just waiting to be resurrected.
Celebrate! Rejoice! Have Fun!
When community members come together to paint murals, teach their neighbors how to paint watercolors or make jewelry, or restore an old public meeting hall, reasons to celebrate abound. Unlike a town hall assembly where conflicts are common, commemorating success on making your neighborhood a better place for everyone yields only joy, pride, and smiles, all of which are conducive to establishing and maintaining strong bonds with new people.
Bring Power Back to the People
Some of the most game-changing social changes are the result of common folks coming together to solve problems that affect everyone. That practice has been systematically deconstructed over the years and replaced by task forces and committees created by local governments. “By the people, for the people” is a rapidly dissipating concept, even though no one knows what a community needs most better than the people who actually live there.
12 years ago, the iconic song “Young Folks” succinctly summed up the prevailing opinion that young people and old people generally disdain each other. But involving youth in community art projects really is the key to success. Giving them a platform to freely express themselves not only helps them build trust and relationships, but it also entices adult volunteers to mentor them and brings together kids from different walks of life that may have never crossed paths otherwise.