January 21, 2013

The Year 2013 at CIRD!

CIRD Staff

It has been a whirlwind year at CIRD! We launched our website, which includes our Resources for Rural Communities page, hosted four informative capacity building calls led by renowned professionals, with hundreds of participants listening in—and held fantastic and diverse design workshops that were catalytic events in each of the four host  communities.

Our request for applications from rural communities facing a pressing design challenge was met with a response of thirty applications from across the country. The four communities awarded financial and technical assistance for a design workshop from CIRD were: Lima, NY, Appalachian Eastern KY, Live Oak, FL, and Seguin, TX.  Each of these places face design challenges representative of many rural communities throughout the United States: creeping sprawl and unchecked development, post-disaster recovery, economic decline, and health and mobility issues among low income populations. To address these challenges, the communities are working to revitalize and preserve their towns — and even whole regions— using design, art, culture, and economic development.  

At each workshop a range of citizens came together, including: entrepreneurs, artists, city officials, state representatives, architects, planners and leaders of educational and religious institutions, to come up with potential solutions for revitalization.  Participants collaborated to create: marketing strategies, plans to redevelop their Main Street, strategies to integrate arts into their economy, and designs for multi-use trails.

Local artists in Live Oak, FL sketch logos for Live Oak's marketing strategy.



Participants in Lima, NY brainstorm and map out ways to redevelop their downtown.

Several nationally renowned speakers, such as Ed McMahon, the Senior Resident Fellow at the Urban Land Institute, Kennedy Smith, Co-Founder of the Community Land Use and Economics Group, and Don Macke, Director of the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, as well as influential local community figures guided the community members and helped them to generate ideas and create plans for their towns. The speakers offered keen insights into each of the communities, provided success stories about others, and facilitated interactive activities at the workshops.

Each workshop chose a variety of strategies to engage participants. James Rojas, founder of Place It!, created a model of Live Oak’s downtown for participants to interact with and brainstorm ideas; Eastern KY’s workshop held learning carousels where participants could visit each speaker to learn more about topics such as creative Placemaking and community branding; while Seguin held fieldtrips to evaluate the current conditions of their Walnut Springs Park. To learn more about the speakers, workshop topics, and partner organizations visit our Workshops page.

Rick Hall, Live Oak's transportation expert, and community members examine ways to connect Live Oak's streets.


Community members with speakers Rick Hall and Ed Barlow play with James Rojas' model.

Each workshop proved to be a great community gathering with lively visioning exercises, shared meals, and discussions, and in addition, participants produced a road map for implementing future plans.  Community members left the workshops more informed about their town’s potential and the collaborative goals for reaching it.

The momentum from the fall workshops is leading to ongoing action:

·         Lima, NY is planning a series of charrettes to refine plans for redeveloping their downtown;  

·         Eastern KY received additional funding from the National Endowment for the Arts to organize follow up forums with local partners;

·         Live Oak, FL is continuing discussions to identify strategies for recruiting businesses and increasing visitation in downtown;

·         Seguin, TX will work to establish new amenities, trails and public art for their Walnut Creek Park.

CIRD is not just about funding and planning design workshops.  Our aim is to provide resources to rural communities everywhere.  To that end we have launched the Resources for Rural Communities section of our website, which includes how-to guides, apps, exercises, case studies, and more, all on issues and challenges facing rural communities.  Whether you are looking for tips on grant writing and federal programs for funding, an introduction to creative Placemaking or simply success stories from other rural communities, Resources for Rural Communities provides a range of material, which we will continue to expand.

Similarly, CIRD offers free capacity building conference calls in collaboration with our partner, Community Matters.  Topics from this past year include: Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper Community Action, Secrets of Successful Rural Communities, and Designing for Vision and Values.  If you miss the call, you can always listen to the podcast or read the follow-up on our blog.

Our upcoming call series, Making it Happen, is a three-part call series to help you and your town move a design or planning process from paper to reality. CIRD's next call will be Building Leadership for the Long Haul on February 13.

Sign up for our newsletter to receive information about our 2014 Request for Proposal for Workshop Funding, which will be released in early March, and to be alerted of the time and dates of the pre-application assistance calls.

For more news on CIRD and rural design, follow us on Twitter @rural_design, and email your inquiries and ideas to!