TheHardWay: What did it mean and where do we go from here?

FinalHardWay

Well, it’s over. We did it. We planned and it worked. Wide sidewalks, planters, lots of seating, big windows, cool art, interesting events, something to drink, and a lovely view of a historic landmark across the street. These are the ingredients for successful placemaking and for four weeks in late July and early August, we created a successful little public place (with a very busy schedule) at the corner of Hellems Ave and Division St in downtown Welland.

We were embraced by the growing community of people interested in regenerating Welland into a liveable, sustainable, determined and resourceful city. We proved wrong the (shrinking) “nobody goes downtown” crowd. The people who came out to TheHardWay confirmed something written by Jason Segedy a few weeks ago as we were starting this project:

Those of us that came of age during the great economic unraveling and (still painful) transition from the Great [North] American Manufacturing Belt to the Rust Belt might just be in a better position to understand our challenges, and to find the creative solutions required to meet them head-on. Those of us that stuck it out and still live here, know where we came from. We’re under no illusions about who we are or where we live. I think Della Rucker was on to something when she listed what we can bring to the table:

  • Determination
  • Long-game focus
  • Understanding the depth of the pit and the long way left to climb out of it
  • Resourcefulness
  • Ability to salvage
  • Expectation that there are no easy answers
  • Disinclination to believe that everything will be all right if only we do this One Big Thing

When I look at this list, I see pragmatism, resilience, self-knowledge, survival skills, and leadership. It all rings true. (Confessions of a Rust-belt orphan)

From day one, many patrons of the TheHardWay asked us what they could do to keep TheHardWay going. Even on closing night I had a few discussions with people who were looking for ways to keep the place open. It was difficult to reinforce that TheHardWay was a temporary project. And perhaps that was a good problem to have. Perhaps TheHardWay is a beginning. Other projects have been discussed. To those who would like to see another TheHardWay, I offer some advice from Pete Seeger: “If someone says, ‘I want to change the world. Where do I go?’ I answer: ‘Stay right where you are. Don’t run away. Dig in.’”

So dig in. It’s all Welland good…

WellandGood

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