When considering what makes “community,” my thoughts go to the people who come in and out of a particular location and the impact they have on the place. This could be small, or quite significant. With this idea in mind, I have been interested in hearing the stories that are held in Fengersfors by the people who live and work here. In asking people to relate stories about particular places in the area I have hoped to gain a better perspective of what is important to the individuals telling me the story as well as perhaps paint a proverbial picture of the community itself.
I have been overwhelmed by how open and generous community members have been, sharing their time, their special locations, and their stories. I think there is something about me not being from here that has made it easier for me to engage with people across the board. On one level they are curious about me and what I am doing here, and on another there is the feeling that I don’t belong to any one “camp” and hold no biases – I am here as an observer, as a facilitator. It has been crucial to me that the Unicorn Union project be driven by the community itself. I am not here to impose a project on people, rather I see my job as a facilitator, offering people the opportunity to look at something they might take for granted: the little things and little places that are important in life but often overlooked. The project provides a reason and a structure for stopping for a moment to consider what makes us who we are, and what is it about the places we live that are important to us.
I think the success of the project lies in the fact that it is devised to allow the community itself to make it into what the people want. In meeting with people, I explain the goal: to collect the stories of the community, to map these special places, and to create a collective forum for the community to learn about their fellow neighbors. Through the process of meeting, talking and the journeys to visit the locations, a rather profound experience occurs. We start with talking about the place, but the conversation grows to include so much more: our fears, our hopes, our dreams. It is not only the person I am “interviewing” – I don’t really like that term, because it isn’t an interview, it’s more of a conversation – but I find myself also becoming vulnerable and sharing my own feelings and experiences of place that are similar to the stories they are sharing. The social practice aspect of the project makes it apparent to all involved of the power of art to serve as a catalyst for conversation, for understanding, for community building.
I look forward to seeing where it all leads and continuing to include people from all parts of the Fengersfors community!