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Transforming Community Development Through Engagement and Design

Full resource: Your Town: Mississippi Delta

Date published: 2002
Source: National Endowment for the Arts
Authors: Shelley S. Mastran (editor) and Mark Robins (series editor)

This publication describes a special workshop supported by the National Endowment for the Arts' Your Town: Designing Its Future initiative. This initiative promotes social engagement in ways which make the highest level of design compatible with and essential to community development. It is administered and staffed through the National Trust for Historic Preservation with the Faculty of Landscape Architecture at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

This particular workshop focused on planning and design for rural African American communities of the Mississippi Delta. It aimed to find meaningful ways of preserving the physical reminders of one’s heritage, of speaking and acting upon that history, of strengthening awareness of this cultural heritage, and bringing it to national attention. At the core of the workshop was a four-hour field trip along Highway 61 to visit three traditionally African American communities: Mound Bayou, Jonestown and Clarksdale.

Participants discussed a range of planning, development, and design issues, including rehabilitating and reusing historic structures, enhancing community spaces, and maintaining cultural identity in the context of limited resources and high unemployment. Each community produced a vision for its future which used community design, graphic and mapping techniques, and management skills in financing and marketing.

The publication also includes excerpts from several speaker presentations which represent a cross-section of the workshop content and reflect its special focus. Although the workshop examined issues related to historically African American communities and linkages within the Mississippi Delta, its messages speak to diverse communities nationwide.

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