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Pioneer Valley REALTORS® Engage in their Communities

Written by Ruby Pontbriand, Marketing and Communications Director, REALTOR® Association of Pioneer Valley

The REALTOR® Association of Pioneer Valley has taken advantage of NAR’s Placemaking Grant and in the past two years was involved in 4 placemaking projects to help enhance their communities by creating new public spaces for residents.  Here are two of those projects.

When plans got underway for a new Promenade Park in Easthampton (MA), we decided to pitch in.  We heard about a sculpture project as part of the project and thought this would be something to make a reality.

The sculpture, funded with NAR’s Placemaking Micro-grant and a contribution from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, is now located in the center of town on a newly installed boardwalk in Promenade Park.    The boardwalk encircles Easthampton’s community pond, a popular site for townsfolk and tourists.  The sculpture serves as a centerpiece for the town’s annual Cultural Chaos which draws thousands each year.  It is an engaging and a welcome addition to the Cultural District’s permanent public art installations.

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Brendan Stecchini created the interactive stainless steel sculpture called the “Center of the Universe”.   “As soon as I saw the word interactive I got excited,” said Stecchini. “Since my artwork tends to be fun.” Stecchini’s design combines four highly-polished, megaphones mounted at different heights and angles to a base engraved with a solar compass to indicate the four directions. The artist hopes that people of all ages will stand at the center of the sculpture, using the megaphones to speak out to the world, while simultaneously reflecting on the great scale and magic of the universe surrounding them.

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In another project, REALTORS® helped to bring a symbol of change to a neighborhood with a new community garden.  Gardening the Community (GTC) is a Springfield (MA) based, youth led food justice organization that grows food on formerly abandoned lots in the Mason Square community of Springfield.   GTC was planning a new garden on a lot on Walnut Street in Springfield.  We thought it be great to partner with them and help to fund a garden with NAR’s Placemaking Micro-grant.

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This new gardening location will serve not only as a place for the local community to plant and grow produce, but also as a meeting place for community outreach, events and a home-base for distributing food.  Tomatoes, beans, lettuce, carrots and flowers will be planted, and a greenhouse will be built so that farming and learning can take place year round.

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Gardening the Community and this new location means a lot to the community. Moises Ramos-Hernandez, from Springfield, told 22News, “We’re sort of a symbol for change in the community and change what we could see our community to become.”

In 2015 alone, GTC sold or distributed 21,500 pounds of locally grown, affordable produce to over 400 Springfield families.

We are proud to that we were able to make both of these projects happen and are looking for a new placemaking project in 2017.

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