Saturdays in the City

nyc

April 13, 2013, New York: Early on in high school, my art teacher started taking groups of us on outings known as Saturdays in the City. Every month or two, we’d take a train trip into Manhattan to go to an art exhibit, walk around New York, and head out to lunch. They were easy afternoon trips — in retrospect, a simple way to take advantage of New York for students who lived in a nearby town but weren’t yet ready to navigate a city they didn’t live in on their own. Funny that I hadn’t given much thought to those trips, let alone noticed their presence among many influences that have unconsciously shaped Neighborhood Nomads. Not until this morning, that is, when I woke up and looked out a window onto New York and thought, This is just the type of day that reminds me of Saturdays in the City.

Whichever city we’re in, Saturdays in the City are old hat these days. But isn’t it nice to see them like we used to, full of something fresh and different that we’ve never laid eyes on?

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Living in Dignowity Hill

Photo Credit: Juan Garcia

This is one in a series featuring our neighborhoods and the people who love them. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads.

July 29, 2012, Washington, DC: I was struck by my recent conversation with Bekah McNeel of San Antonio. In relaying her story about moving into the neighborhood of Dignowity Hill two years ago, Bekah challenged me to think more deeply about not only our love of place, but about our responsibility to place. She had me considering where we are needed.

How many of us embark on a house hunt considering what we can give to a home and a neighborhood in addition to what we can get? Bekah had great perspective on this, and I loved what she had to say about the secret ingredient to making a place home, both for old-time residents and fresh-eyed newcomers.

Read on for highlights from my conversation with Bekah after the jump.

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Walking Washington With The Prince of Petworth

Petworth, Washington, DC, July 2012

This is one in a series featuring our city neighborhoods and the people who love them. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads.

July 18, 2012, Washington, DC: Speaking of neighborhood nomads, meet Dan Silverman (if you don’t know him already). Silverman stays connected to his most recent hometown of Washington by walking. A lot. He is, in fact, so fanatical about doing so that he makes a living recording his observations along the way. On lengthy strolls throughout Washington’s many neighborhoods, Silverman takes note of an architectural detail or a neighborhood garden, gets the nitty gritty details on crime, or shares the latest real estate scoop. He posts his findings to his hyper-local, hyper-popular blog, Prince of Petworth. Silverman sat still long enough to drink a cup of coffee at Peregrine on Capitol Hill and share his story with Neighborhood Nomads.

Read on for an interview with the Prince of Petworth after the jump.

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Living in Anacostia: Nikki and Beth Discuss Anacostia’s Creative Economy

This is one in a series featuring our city neighborhoods and the people who love them. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads.

July 16, 2012, Washington, DC: On most mornings, Nikki Peele drives to work from her condo in Congress Heights. Beth Ferraro bikes over the river from her apartment in northwest DC. They meet in Anacostia, a neighborhood that many Washingtonians avoid. But it’s there in the southeast quadrant of the city that Nikki and Beth invest their time, their energies, and their passions into an historic neighborhood where change is underway.

Alongside many others, Nikki and Beth are instrumental players in a collaborative effort to redefine Anacostia as a hub for artists and an incubator for small businesses. Nikki serves the director of economic development and marketing for ARCH Development Corporation — a community non-profit intent on fostering a creative economy to fuel community revitalization — and Beth works as the creative director at Honfleur Gallery and the Gallery at Vivid Solutions, two of ARCH’s projects. Where some see blight, people like Nikki and Beth see potential. Where some see an empty lot, they envision a sculpture garden.

They are now among many in Anacostia who frequently come together to celebrate this community’s ongoing makeover. On Friday night, crowds gathered at two neighborhood art galleries for opening receptions: At Honfleur, they came to see “East of the River”, an exhibit featuring the work of 17 artists with roots in the communities east of the Anacostia River, and at Vivid Solutions, they explored “Inside Outside”, an exhibit showcasing first-person accounts of formerly incarcerated men. The events were prime examples of increased levels of neighborhood participation, using art as the vehicle for change.

“We have events for the exhibits here at both Honfleur Gallery and the Gallery of Vivid Solutions every six to eight weeks, so there’s usually a big opening,” Beth recently told Neighborhood Nomads. “They always go longer than they should, everyone goes out afterwards, and it’s always a pretty good mix of random people, both locals and the art crowd. It’s a good diverse group.”

“Obviously, I love the galleries, but it’s not just the exhibits that I love,” Nikki said. “I like these spaces because there are few opportunities in our communities to commune with one another. For me, in Anacostia, all of my good times when I get to see my neighbors or my coworkers or meet new people have been in these spaces.”

“I think we are really at the precipice of some amazing things going forward — absolutely,” said Nikki. “I keep saying, If you’re not here, get over here asap.”

Learn more about Anacostia from Nikki and Beth after the jump.

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Nomads with an ‘S’ (That Means You)

July 14, 2012, Washington, DC: Hello again. It’s a fresh new day on the blog and I wanted to share with you some of the changes underway here at Neighborhood Nomads. For starters, you may have noticed you’ve arrived at a new URL, no matter which route you took to get here. You’ve arrived at www.neighborhoodnomads.com. Plain, simple, and plural. That’s nomads with an ‘s’. And yes, that means you.

One measly little letter signifies big changes to come. It indicates that from here on out, this site will be about you, not me. With my one-year personal blog project behind me, I’ve decided to carry on in this space with a slight shift of intention. From now on, I’ll hone in on the most compelling content produced throughout the course of the past year: interviews with other neighborhood nomads.

A revamped ‘About’ page provides an explanation of the site’s renewed purpose. Take a look. Let me know you think. Raise your hand to participate in the project. Share a photo of your city. Speak up if you have friends, family and neighbors with fantastic stories to tell about the places that have shaped them.

And go enjoy your neighborhood on this beautiful summer weekend.

Jane Jacobs & The Neighborhoods of Toronto

“People would ask me after we had decided to stay, “Well, when are you coming back?” “Well, we’re not. We are living here.” “Oh, but you can’t just—you’ve got to come back to real life.” And I would say, “It’s just as real.” This is very hard for Americans to understand and I think that may be the biggest difference between Americans and people elsewhere. Canadians know that there are places just as real as Canada.”

-Jane Jacobs, on moving from New York to Toronto, from a March 2001 interview by Jim Kunstler for Metropolis Magazine

June 5, 2012, Washington, DC: The late Jane Jacobs is best known in the States for her years as a quintessential New Yorker: Her observations about city living on Greenwich Village’s Hudson Street and her vocal opposition to building a highway on the Lower East Side shaped not only the city itself, but influenced the way we think about major metropolises. But the godmother of urban studies would later make another city her home. In the late 1960s, Jacobs, then in her early 50s, relocated with her family from New York to Toronto, where she was actively involved from the get-go both in the city’s politics and in the more subtle rhythms of its lively streets. Shortly after moving in, Jacobs helped put an stop to the completion of Toronto’s Spadina Expressway, a proposed north-south highway that would chop the city in half, just as she had spoken up against Robert Moses in New York. Various Toronto writers at the time of Jacobs’ death in 2006 reminisced about seeing her out and about on Bloor St. in the Annex neighborhood where she lived near Bathhurst subway station and lingering regularly in her neighborhood bookstore, always vigorously participating in her hometown. Jacobs lived in Toronto for nearly half her life and became a Canadian citizen in 1974.

For those of us who believe in Jacobs’ conviction that strong, active and diverse neighborhoods are the lifeblood of successful cities, the proof is every bit as evident in Toronto as it is in New York.

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Today’s Pit Stops

May 18, 2012, Washington, DC: We’ve got a few pit stops to make today and stopping by to applaud Bike to Work Day is only the first. Next up, we’ve got a stop at the Metro station and another at the airport, a hiatus up in the air and a trip out to Long Island. We’ll stop by the rental car counter and set out for a drive on roads we’ve never navigated before arriving for a wedding in a town we’ve never seen.

But first we stop one hundred yards from the front door at one of 58 pit stops throughout DC, Virginia and Maryland set up this morning to help riders navigate Bike to Work Day.

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