Community Matters: Art and Community
Over the past few weeks some very exciting things have happened in Beaver County at the intersection of community development and the arts. These have included a county-wide art exploration, a spoken word event, a pop-up art gallery and an art and business conference.
All four of these events were organized by a Beaver County nonprofit called The Genesis Collective. Collectively called “Art Madness”, this compilation of activities was the culmination of a year of planning, organizing, networking, fundraising and much more.
Each of the four events was created to engage a slightly different group of creative actors and art lovers. Art Exploration temporarily installed community-created artwork at more than 20 local Beaver County businesses. The spoken word event attracted creatives from across the region, each of whom delivered performances in front of a live audience. The pop-up gallery publicly featured all of Art Exploration’s works (and other Beaver County pieces) in one place. In the process, the pop-up gallery attracted more than 100 community art advocates and featured a live preview of a play by and about Beaver County residents that will premiere in full in August of This year. Finally, the business conference was geared toward local creatives interested in growing their art-related businesses here in Beaver County.
In case you haven’t heard of it yet, The Genesis Collective is a growing and diverse collaboration of local artists and community advocates committed across Beaver County to “support artists and their work , increase public access to art and creativity, and root art in and around community development in Beaver County.
From its inception, the organization was intentionally and relentlessly built with the idea of collective leadership in mind. Currently, the core leadership of the collective is made up of nine creators from Beaver County, all of whom are deeply committed to creating a better-looking version of Beaver County. In its current form, the group contains painters, photographers, podcasters, art historians, screen printers, artisans, and more. The collective is intentionally always expanding, seeking to add additional creativity and insight to its team of advocacy artists who work tirelessly on behalf of Beaver County residents and organizations.
Over the past 12 months, members of The Genesis Collective have taught art lessons to local youth, created public murals that highlight a brighter future for Beaver County, conceptualized and funded artwork art showcasing Beaver County’s diverse history, generated artwork that reflects the challenges facing Beaver County, engaged in relentless storytelling about our region, and much more. Along the way, the group quickly established itself as something of a public conscience and guide, holding up a mirror of our collective experience and helping lead our region into a more beautiful, honest and constructive future.
As Beaver County continues to create our future version of itself, we will need more and more organizations like The Genesis Collective. For those inclined to pay attention, this group of creative disruptors has modeled what prioritizing fairness looks like when building an organization. They intentionally worked to affirm healthy public narratives and disrupt those that are no longer helpful to our collective health.
The Genesis Collective challenges us to move beyond tired and inefficient ways of communicating our common needs and goals and provides tools with which we can more effectively move stakeholders towards collaboration and a unified vision. This group of creatives empowers community organizations to bring their story to a wider audience, helping them expand their influence and connect to increasingly impactful resources needed to grow the community. Most importantly, the work of The Genesis Collective reminds us that, even despite what we have long believed about ourselves and our region, Beaver County and its people are beautiful, dignified, and strong-willed.
The Genesis Collective reminds us that creativity abounds, creatives are eager to step out of the shadows, and together we can all benefit from the encouragement and uplifting voice of artists living and working across the globe. Beaver County.
In many cultures, countless cities, varied settings, and all manner of historical contexts, artists have consistently been catalysts for community rebirth and vitality. In fact, I would argue that in almost every context where robust cultural growth has occurred, one will find a group of artists just below the surface of more obvious markers of community change. Art has that kind of quality about it. He critiques what exists, envisions something different, inspires others to uplift their humanity, and creates communities fueled by creative vision and productive dissatisfaction with the status quo.
Whatever the future of Beaver County – and none of us can predict it in its entirety – the health of that future will undoubtedly depend on our willingness to encourage, support and elevate the work of creatives and local artists.
If The Genesis Collective’s work to date is any indication of what’s yet to come, then we all have reason to hope and expect our shared creative future.
Daniel Rossi-Keen, Ph.D., is co-owner of eQuip Books, a community bookstore in Aliquippa and executive director of RiverWise, a nonprofit organization employing sustainability practices to create a regional identity around the county’s rivers. of Beaver. You can reach Daniel at [email protected]