A #hashtag with a meaning
By Tiffany Bowers
Special to the Outlook
Twelve individuals of diverse backgrounds were selected to erect a 30-foot art structure on the South Side of Tallahassee. This ambitious, #iHeartTally project, of the 2017 Knight Creative Communities Institute, was the latest feat toward catalyzing and place making in the Capital City. As a catalyst and member of the project, my journey was fueled by both passion for the city as well as fervor for the South Side area.
Excited to hear of the possibility of continued attention and enhancement for the area of town where I reside, I eagerly applied and was elated to begin. The South Side, full of rich history and lively bustle; our historic area of town is also home to the illustrious Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. Having been raised by public servants, my father a middle school principal and my mother a social worker, I gained experience early as a servant, involved in my (then) community. Since coming to Tallahassee for college and now a resident of over a decade, I have familiarity in this area of town, and the friendly faces often remind me of the treasures of home. I had wondered since settling, however, how could I better insert myself into the culture and community of the South Side. How could I serve more in my new home.
In the work of #iHeartTally, there were many key individuals and pieces of our art puzzle, all bringing the project to fruition. With my training in outreach, I was elated to conduct the location search, as well as contact and meet with business and community leaders in the Capital City Chamber. My training in legislative fundraising led to work in the financial components of the project, as well as forging essential partnerships with FAMU and President Dr. Larry Robinson.
The height of my experience occurred at the culmination of the project, alongside my fellow catalyst, Cosby Hayes. We partnered with Oak Ridge Elementary principal Jasmine Smith, art teacher Rashad Curry, and the students, to create art for Tallahassee. As the budding intellectuals and future creative citizens designed art for their stories of why they love living in our Capital City, my awareness enhanced for the true value of this project – inclusion. Despite age, economics or local region, as servants, our active and intentional inclusivity of all Tallahassee citizens is what ensures our community thrives. By engaging in the act of holistic community, we will surely accomplish this goal. Thankful to the children at Oak Ridge, my vision is clearer for ways to involve and serve the residents and occupiers of our South Side within our growth goals.
Honored and enriched to serve, I came to realize that #iHeartTally, and these letters – TLH are so much more than a photo-op or an airport code. Our art installation is a visual reminder to our local and regional communities of who we are. Talent lives here (TLH) in Tallahassee; our home is reflective of progressive growth and a rich commitment to citizen engagement as well. While the beautiful installation is a huge sign of great transition to come in the South Side area, may we remember the richness in the lived experiences of those who currently thrive in the area, and even greater, consider ways to more holistically exchange with them. By finding ways to be living art, we are a voice for those who may currently feel as though they have little.
The vision of the Knight Foundations is to cultivate and retain talent. By buying-in to such foresight, I was able to reach beyond the requirements of the project and deeper into our community. I look to continued work, given relationships formed in the #iHeartTally project, to make Tallahassee a great place to live, work and visit! Making our installation, then, not just art, but an opportunity for reflection and challenge. May we use the art to brainstorm and create ways to better serve and engage with Tallahassee, making the whole of her increasingly better!