University and College Park community members will participate in an open discussion this Saturday titled Think-A-Thon, an event to promote infusion of the arts and culture into the planning process for revitalizing Baltimore Avenue.
The venue is a “think and do type of event,” using the arts and culture to look for solutions to Route 1 obstacles, said Nicky Everette, the marketing and communications director for the College of Arts and Humanities.
The discussion is hosted by the College of Arts and Humanities’ Center for Synergy at this university and will be held from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the College Park Community Center and Youth Soccer Complex.
For the past two years Think-A-Thons have occurred in Baltimore City to discuss the city’s challenges.
However, this year Sheri Parks, research, interdisciplinary, scholarship and programming associate dean for the College of Arts and Humanities, said it was time to start a discussion in College Park about the future of Baltimore Avenue’s development.
College Park Mayor Andrew Fellows, who will be in attendance at the event, agreed that the city could benefit from an open dialogue using the arts and culture as a basis, Parks said.
“The Think-A-Thon is another reason that College Park is a smart place to live,” Fellows said in a College Park Think-A-Thon news release. “We’ve always been thoughtful — now we’ve begun to do so collectively, by creative and collaborative design.”
Parks said the thought is that art and culture can not only make College Park a better place to live but also be used to start a conversation in the community.
The event will begin with a town hall style conversation to stimulate an open discussion. Once initial ideas have been heard, attendees will split into groups based on their interests and begin to plan and design their ideas.
Parks said she will open the discussion with information she has gathered in conversations with members of the College Park community, who hold many different perspectives on the revitalization.
To get a better understanding of community member’s opinions on the redesign effort, Parks has “taken this show on the road,” Everette said.
Parks has worked to gather insight from members of the community who might be unable to attend the event so their voices can still be heard and inform the day, Everette said.
Event organizers even sent two human billboards to College Park Day for students to write their ideas down, Parks said.
Based on her interactions, many students said they believe there are too many pizza eateries. She said they want better food experiences around the campus, places with live music or opportunities for spoken word.
Ideas for galleries, bookstores and art supplies stores have also been part of preliminary conversations.
Lisa Driscoll, a senior journalism and vocal performance major, said Baltimore Avenue is in “dire need” of redesign, which could make it more welcoming.
“The university has such a creative side to it. … I’m sure that the college park community also has that and to be able to utilize that in a way that really highlights the culture of the area would be just such a great addition to Baltimore Avenue,” Driscoll said.
She said the area surrounding Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville is “capitalizing on creative voices” in the community.
“Students come to college here with already very vibrant aesthetic lives and if you’re not a major in the arts it is sometimes difficult to find ways to practice your art, to express it, and we’re hoping to create spaces where students can do more of that,” Parks said.
After the event, Everette said Parks will collect all of the information gathered at mini Think-A-Thon venues this semester, including one held at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center’s 2014 NextNOW Fest, and the College Park Think-A-Thon to present it in a report to the City of College Park and administrators at this university.
Everette said it is the hope of event organizers that the conversation will continue on a pilot collaboration website (www.collaboration.umd.edu), containing online workgroups, that will go live on the day of the event.
Jordan Branch is a junior multiplatform journalism and government and politics major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.