“At the dinner, the students will present their ideas to their respective partners,” says Mosher, an associate professor of geography, a Senior Research Fellow in the Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs, and an inaugural Public Scholar of the New York Council for the Humanities. “Afterward, they’ll spend the next month turning some or all of their ideas into reality.”
On Thursday, April 21, the groups and their partners will publicly unveil their projects at a local press conference. In anticipation of the event, they will be coached by Kevin Morrow, executive director of public affairs strategic communications at the University; Dennis Connors, curator of history for the Onondaga Historical Association; and Owen Kerney, assistant director for city planning for the City of Syracuse.
Higgins is adjunct professor of community engagement and economic development, as well as vice president of CEED. “The students’ projects speak to the importance of ‘place’ in the urban landscape,” she says, noting that much of this kind of work occurs at the nexus of the humanities and the social sciences. “The whole point of these interventions is to add spark to our neighborhoods, in hopes that residents will engage with one another in new, exciting ways.”
“Spark” can take many forms, Higgins explains, such as an herb garden on a desolate street corner, a poem engraved on the façade of an abandoned building, or a play-mat in a vacant lot. “While small, such examples can be powerful, and can serve as catalysts for change in urban neighborhoods,” says Higgins, a nationally renowned urban revitalization leader and economic development executive. “They’re also indicative of a new trend in urban planning and design that is more ‘project-based,’ rather than ‘comprehensive’ in its approach, and targets smaller scales.”
Urban acupuncture is a relatively new concept, largely pioneered by the Brazilian architect and urban planner Jaime Lerner. Using a small-scale approach to large-scale problems, he and other such proponents argue that cities must be treated as living organisms. Just as medicine stems from interaction between a doctor and a patient, urban areas need to be “poked” in such a way to heal, improve, and create positive chain reactions.
“Large-scale revitalization projects are not always the answer,” May adds. “Progressive urban renewal begins with people and ideas—engaging our communities in meaningful ways, so that there is a coordinated effort in seeking solutions to urban challenges.”
The Humanities Center, located in the Tolley Humanities Building, is a hub of humanities research, fellowships, and public programming. Click here for the complete Spring 2016 schedule.