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Southwest Detroit revitalization is a community family affair at Vista Partnership

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It’s all about community.

It’s all about helping people in the community interact with each other, share experiences, develop long-term relationships and work toward a common goal.

It’s all about having a passion to see change in the community and listening to its voice.

In the case of Vista Partnership it’s all about working with the community to revitalize a 20-block area in southwest Detroit and giving those living there a place to share their successes and struggles, show off their talents and learn new things. In short, it’s a family affair.

That’s exactly what A Night of Community Art was … a family affair.

More than 200 laughing neighbors poured into Vista Partnership’s huge auditorium in the organization’s headquarters in the old St. Anthony’s (Lithuanian) Church on Vernor in southwest Detroit to be part of a fun night. The auditorium was the nave of the church.

They were greeted by Councilwoman Raquel Castañeda López, who spoke about Vista Partnership’s success. Two years ago the 4,000-square-foot building  was empty.  In 9 months it will be able to claim about 15,000 visitors.

Self portraits out of pop cans

Self portraits out of pop cans

It was a fun night. Neighbors made self-portraits using cardboard, crushed cans, oil pastels, and puffy paint provided by Living Arts. Many local residents also sent in selfies before the event, which were displayed around the huge auditorium.

“Seeing pictures of families make their faces beam,” says Mayte Penman, director of resident engagement at Vista Partnership.

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One room was dedicated to butterflies. The Greening of Detroit helped the children learn about the plight of the Monarch butterflies, which are now an endangered species. They kids drew pictures of the Monarch butterfly and many of them, as well as some adults, got to be a butterfly by making very creative wings out of wire hangers and pantyhose.

Face painting, #1133

Local artist Payaso Cocorito provided face painting with a butterfly theme to complement the wings.

Keep Growing Detroit taught the kids how plant seeds and how to care for them. They carefully took the plants home.

Puppets from the nearby Matrix Theatre also made an appearance and various forms of dance were demonstrated. The Motor City Street Dance Academy showed off their street style dancing and taught hip hop and break dancing to kids 16-20 years old, who loved it. The residents who take the Zumba class at Vista Partnership showed off their moves.

There was more dancing from the Roberto Clemente Recreation Center, which helped the crowd learn new dance moves and find out what’s going on at the center.

Several other organizations also participated including preschool Thrive By Five, with a sensory bag activity, and the Matrix Theatre, which provided light, interactive activities that explored the community.

Theater girls on a ship

Theatre girls on a ship

Unity in Our Community TimeBank worked with neighbors to build a wall of sharing. Participants traced their hand and then wrote something they could either offer the community or something they need from it.

The American Heart Association asked people to sign in by answering two questions. What are those moments, people, or experiences that you live for? What is your why in life? Everyone participating was asked to make a sign with his or her answer and then take a photo to share with the community.

“The event was great,” says Penman. “The families were very happy. The children were excited. Grandmother brought here grandkids.”

A few days before A Night of Community Art, Vista Partnership was turned into a mini prom dress salon for the second annual Mama Coo’s prom dress giveaway. Evening dresses of all kinds had been donated and about 50 young ladies came to choose one to wear to the prom.

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“Proms are expensive and not everyone has the money,” says Penman. “It was a nice event. The ladies had a chance to do heels and have someone to show how to do makeup and hair.”

That someone was Alana Rodriguez, of Mama Coo’s Boutique, who spearheaded the prom dress giveaway program.

“We provided the venue and she was so much more than a volunteer,” says Penman. “To do that out of her heart is wonderful. It is nice to recognize her efforts. I admire that.”

It is indeed all about community. It is quite powerful thing to be part of a group of people you can trust and rely on.

For more information about the Vista Partnership and the survey, here is the link:

http://www.vistapartnership.org/

– A Night of Community Art pictures courtesy of Vista Partnership. Prom pictures by Julianne Lindsey

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