Collective Impact Lincoln mini-grants strengthen civic health

In 2021, Collective Impact Lincoln awarded $10,000 to neighbors and community groups to support 12 projects to improve the quality of life in the city's core neighborhoods. Let's catch up on their progress.

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The projects that earned 2021 mini-grants were based in Collective Impact Lincoln‘s six focus neighborhoods: Belmont, Clinton, Everett, Hartley, Near South, and University Place. Today, we’re looking back on a few of these projects and celebrating the power of small – what begins as a neighborhood project and morphs into a community practice of care. 

Illuminating community art spaces

Our friends at the LUX Center for the Arts host a Community Art Alley, where community members are invited to add color to existing artists’ designs and contribute their own.
The LUX Community Art Alley has been a place for community members to contribute original murals and works of art – collectively creating a colorful and inspiring alleyway people can utilize as a blank canvas, a source of inspiration during a walk through our neighborhood, or even as a backdrop for a photoshoot. It continually reminds us that art + creative expression connects us and can foster something beautiful when we do it together.
Painting an alleyway, however, often comes with a lack of natural light due to the small enclosed spaces where they reside. After applying for a Collective Impact Lincoln mini-grant, LUX Center for the Arts was able to install a ‘Lite Brite’ to illuminate the Community Art Alley as well as another corner of the campus featuring two murals.

Building an outdoor art display

Clinton neighborhood resident Ella Durham is no stranger to community art. Ella has shared their artistic practice and creative placemaking expertise with neighbors at our Community Builder Workshops and other community events. We were delighted when Ella applied for a mini-grant to create an outdoor walk-by art gallery and public art space for her neighborhood. 

This project brings small, curated art shows to the streets for neighbors and passersby. Located along a residential road near the MoPac Trail, it sees regular foot traffic throughout the year and is an opportune location to reach neighbors. Ella built the display from the ground up, involving the repair of the landscape and a deteriorating nearby shed. Drawing on aspects of creative placemaking, the outdoor art display invites neighbors to engage with everyday art, shaping their shared lived environment together. 

Hunting for Easter eggs

It was tradition for University Place Community Organization (UPCO) to host an annual Easter egg hunt. When the COVID-19 Pandemic made it less safe to gather in person, they got creative and hosted a reimagined COVID-friendly, drive-through Easter Egg Hop. 
With help from the Student Athlete Advisory Committee at Nebraska Wesleyan University, UPCO stuffed bags for neighbors with candy and small prizes. Lincoln Bike Kitchen joined the collaboration and donated bikes, helmets, and locks for folks who had winning tickets on their candy bags. Together, they reached more than 50 families in the University Place neighborhood – about 80 to 100 neighborhood kids.

Sharing a seat

Across the many Little Free Libraries in our neighborhoods, it can be hard to find one where you can stop and stay awhile. Near South resident Nicholaus Svoboda saw this opportunity to create a mini-gathering place for neighbors. He built a public seating area next to a Little Free Library, which includes a large recycled plastic park bench for neighbors to enjoy while they read, chat, and just be.

Spotlighting community leaders

We are not alone celebrating everyday community leaders. City Impact‘s Youth Communications Team created a YouTube channel and podcast to spotlight a diverse array of community leaders. The multimedia effort lifts up residents’ stories and impacts on our social fabric. With the mini-grant funds, City Impact bought equipment for the team and launched communications platforms to mentor, teach, and empower youth while spotlighting existing community members and organizations. Check out their YouTube channel here.

Bringing books to Little Free Libraries

It has been a wonderful sight to see so many Little Free Libraries emerge in our neighborhoods. While many are stocked with books, zines, and other written works made and donated by our neighbors, it can be hard to keep up with demand. Clinton resident Lorna Parks used a mini-grant to buy children’s books for the Little Free Libraries in her neighborhood. The books are popular with children who attend Clinton Elementary or are on their way home from nearby parks. We are so glad to have neighbors like Lorna who share our love of books and spreading knowledge.

Looking forward to a new year and new projects

We’re thankful for the opportunities to connect with stellar neighbors and community groups and to support their dreams and schemes in ’21. It’s amazing how something as simple as lighting in an alleyway or having an open bench to sit down and just “be” can transform the social fabric of our neighborhoods. 
When we have opportunities to connect freely with one another and create change where we call home, we not only feel safer and more welcome, but we are better equipped and empowered to support each other through good and hard times. That’s what civic health is about, right? Strengthening our social fabric, between us neighbors and the institutions that serve us so that we can solve local problems the way we, our neighbors, know best. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allie Christianson is a Collective Impact Lincoln community organizer for Civic Nebraska. Learn more about Collective Impact Lincoln here.

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