I have been waiting for an excuse to write about the Pomegranate Center, one of those organizations built on a cool concept that more people need to know. Then I realized I didn’t need an excuse.
Here’s the founding premise, as presented on the website: “magic happens when art, creative thinking, and community join forces.” Milenko Matonovic, the founding executive director “is a self-described recovering artist.” How could I not highlight this?
The home page summarizes their work this way:
Pomegranate Center helps communities prepare for the future.
We think every neighborhood deserves to be full of life and beauty. And every person should have the chance to feel connected to their neighbors and the place they live.
The future depends on our ability to work together to find the best solutions, to use resources wisely, and to learn to see our differences as gifts.
Our unique style of community-building combines a creative approach with effective community planning, broad public participation, hands-on learning and leadership development.
When we work together to strengthen our communities everyone wins — the economy grows, health improves, resources are better used, crime goes down, and people are happier.
The Pomegranate Center’s work is primarily about developing congenial places for communities to come together. The Gathering Places Project is an example, though just one, of this work. What they are doing is creating physical locations for people to meet and interact. Some community workers refer to such space as “Third Places,” after home and the workplace. This concept was introduced by Ray Oldenburg in The Great Good Place and further developed by Robert Putnam in Bowling Alone. The basic premise is that we have lost touch with each other partially as a result of having little time and few places for casual interaction. And we are socially impoverished as a result.
Clearly the Pomegranate Center is not an arts organization that has decided to engage. They are a community builder focusing on place that can tap the arts as needed to assist the community building/improvement process. What makes them particularly valuable from my point of view is not the fascinating projects (and there are plenty of them) but the expertise they have developed (and the lessons they have learned) about how to work with communities and neighborhoods. They have prepared some material that might be valuable for those thinking about community involvement that I am taking the liberty of sharing here:
Building Better Communities Handbook: A free and fast read on ideas for bringing people together to make your community work
Another thing that I particularly like about the Pomegranate Center is that they clearly see community improvement as their mission. Their work then flows from that belief. I would argue that any 501(c)(3) organization has that view as a responsibility (and a privilege). How is the work of the arts altered or adjusted if that mindset is adopted? That’s what I’ve been talking about. I’ll continue to do so.