Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody. Jane Jacobs
The neighborhood of Manchester’s story is a familiar tale: After it was absorbed into Richmond in 1910, the (primarily white) middle class moved to the proposed comfort of the suburbs after WWII, away from crime and deteriorating housing and commercial corridors. A few enterprising individuals in the 1990s looked at the cheap vacant land and buildings- so close to downtown, right in the heart of it all- and took some risks. The tide turned around 2005, and suddenly the apartments and townhouses couldn’t come fast enough. South Richmond or New Old Manchester? Reclaim the old identity to remove the tarnish of the recent identity?
Site of Becoming: ManchesterRVA invites people to share their ideas through social media of “what could be”—how the featured historical buildings in need of ‘love’ by way of preservation and occupation—would best serve the current community. Select locations are “tagged” with posters or stickers stating, “This is a site of becoming. What could it be?” Responses will be recorded and archived in a digital gallery. A walking guide highlights the ongoing revitalization of the Manchester neighborhood while honoring its history, and encourages the community to take up civic action in designing a neighborhood that serves their needs and leisure activities.
The Oasis Mobile Art Project with Jennie Fleming. Site of Becoming: ManchesterRVA, 2016, Artist’s book edition of 500, 6x6in.
This a snapshot of a neighborhood in motion, a visual “mix tape” presenting a neighborhood as it is, April 2016. It is not a walking guide, telling you to go from A to B to C, but a waking guide. Be a tactical tourist and step outside of your daily routine. Eyes wide open, take it all in, there is more than one way to look. Let the background- how we connect, how we spend our time, how we make our way- become the foreground. You know what a place means to you, what does it mean to the person standing on the corner? Be curious about all aspects of life in a place, let the nineteenth-century American tourists be your inspiration. They would visit the next town over, take factory tours, try new restaurants, meet new people- for the pleasure of learning about the world in which they lived.
This guide also encourages tactical activism (wherever you live). Time to shake it up. Develop a curiosity about your surroundings. Find others who are curious, then get to work. How we understand our community is how we experience it. Reinvention involves new ways of seeing and understanding our places. Consider what was, what is, and what could be.
What does it need? (safety, housing, grocery, health care, transportation, schools, child care, senior facilities)
What would be convenient? (corner markets, pharmacy, gasoline, coffee shops)
What would be fun or life enriching? (parks, recreation, restaurants, cultural institutions, religious institutions)
What does it need as a memorable destination place? When you visit another place, what do you remember?
What does it need to make you happy to stay home? What do you need to love living here?
I want to spend my evening here doing ___. I want to spend my weekend here doing ___.
This guide doesn’t pretend to be comprehensive (although it tries to be as accurate as possible and regrets any errors or omissions).
It is just a guide to a site of becoming- what could it be?
Site of Becoming: ManchesterRVA, 2016, poster 12×18 in., sticker 3×4 in, and artist’s book 6×6 in. Selected installation views of distribution site at festival and Site of Becoming posters and stickers around Manchester, Richmond, VA, April 2016.