Seventy-five adults from all walks of life sat in a circle, looking at a stack of blank paper and markers in the center of the floor. Once the instructions were given, a flurry of action erupted as participants began approaching the center, writing their topics for discussion on pieces of paper and announcing them out loud, then posting them on the Market Place wall. That’s when the magic began. Energy filled the room as people engaged in this activity and it continued to grow throughout this unique Open Space convening.
Creative Rahway: A Call to Collaboration formed around the question “How can our evolving community ignite creativity and innovation to ensure a thriving Rahway?” Fostering Rahway’s arts community has been at the focus of the city’s redevelopment plan for years, and while the Arts were discussed in numerous conversations, the Open Space format allowed for many topics to be suggested in a democratic way. Sessions ranged from “How can we bridge the gap between the Arts and Athletics?” to “How can we encourage reinvestment in our downtown from within our community?”
As Day One came to a close, it was fascinating to watch and listen as people shared their experiences from the day’s discussions. There was genuine excitement and enthusiasm in the air.
Day Two began with an atmosphere of collaboration and focused energy. By reviewing the notes from previous dialogs, as well as through their own participation, individuals were aware of other participants’ interests. Spontaneous brainstorming sessions sprang up, relevant conversations took place, and groups formed around specific action items (including “branding” Rahway, and a new task force “Creative Rahway for Education”.)
As the convening came to an end, Creative Rahway participants felt – in their own words – “Optimistic”, “Hopeful”, and “Excited” about Rahway and their role in helping to shaping our town’s future.
Individuals came to the meeting, perhaps wondering “What will I get out of this? Why is it important for me to be here?” They left as a team: Informed about what is already happening in the town; Empowered to act on ideas that were discussed; Connected with other individuals who have similar interests; and United as a whole in the shared goal of ‘a thriving Rahway’.
Open space principles say “Whoever comes are the right people; Wherever it happens is the right place; Whenever it starts is the right time; Whatever happens is the only thing that could have; and When it is over, it is over.” But it feels more appropriate to say, “When it is over, it begins.” At least, that seems to be the case in Rahway, because now that the convening is over, Creative Rahway is just getting started.
Anyone interested in joining the Creative Rahway movement can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and connect to our Facebook page. You can also join us at our upcoming Creative Drinks meet-up on February 27 at 5.30pm at The Rail House’s new annex at 1443 Irving Street……Creative Drinks is an event created by our friends at the Arts Council of the Morris Area and Creative Morristown……we loved the idea so we launching that in Rahway! We hope to see you there!
Images courtesy of Creative Rahway
Rachael Faillace is the Executive Director of Rahway Arts District, Inc., a non-profit arts and economic development organization supporting the businesses in the downtown Arts and Central Business Districts of Rahway, NJ. Working with the City government and the cultural community, we work to promote Rahway as a center where the visual, performing, and cultural arts converge; as a place where artists live and work; and as a go-to destination for exceptional dining and unique retail experiences.