Preservation as Community: PastForward and a Look Ahead

By Priya Chhaya posted 11-21-2016 14:34


The last day at PastForward was an emotional one. Friday kicked off with our final TrustLive, preservationVOICES, featuring documentary filmmaker John Valadez. In his keynote, Valadez talked about growing up Mexican American and how that experience has influenced his work. He described his experiences teaching photography in India and said that we “preserve the stories to teach us what it is to live a life well lived and what it is to live a life squandered.”

The subsequent TalkBack panel with Manuelito Wheeler, director of the Navajo Nation Museum; Teresa Leger de Fernandez of Leger Law & Strategy; and Afeefa Syeed, founder and head of school at Al Fatih Academy, focused on the critical role of stories in creating a national dialogue about what it means to be American.

preservationVoices TalkBack Panel: from left to right, Max Page, John Valadez, Afeefa Syeed, Teresa Leger de Fernandez, and Manuelito Wheeler. | Credit: Priya Chhaya

The weekend has passed, and I am still processing this incredible panel. What struck me the most was how community oriented the conversation was—reinforcing the ideas put forth by Rick Lowe (and panel) and Nina Simon the previous day: that we need to work harder to build bridges, to create pathways and doorways, for an equitable society.

After a series of Learning Labs, the conference capped off with the Closing Luncheon, during which Glenn Wilson of Flint, Michigan, was presented with the American Express Aspire Award. We also heard from Tim McClimon of the American Express Foundation, who announced Partners in Preservation: Main Street, coming in fall 2017, and urged the audience to participate in Small Business Saturday this coming weekend.

The conference formally closed with a talk from Theaster Gates of the Rebuild Foundation, who was presented with the final Driehaus Preservation Award for his work in revitalizing the Stony Island Arts Bank in Chicago. Gates described the process of saving the bank after purchasing it from the city for a dollar. It took a lot of work to convince others of the site’s potential, and Gates expressed his hope that “art would fight the stigma of violence and would bring people back into the neighborhood.” He went on to say that "helping to make buildings beautiful is one part, but it's also about how those buildings serve the lives of young people."

Preservation is about community. We save buildings because they are beautiful, important, or necessary —but they are ultimately about serving the community and the people who surround them.

PastForward 2017

Next year PastForward will be traveling to the architectural mecca of Chicago, Illinois, but the content will be about more than just the beauty of buildings—and we hope to see you there! The call for ideas will open in early 2017, so keep an eye out for the announcement, and make sure you are signed up for updates.

Of course, you don’t have to wait until next November for the latest content for preservation leaders. Just check back often here on Preservation Leadership Forum.


#Diversity #PastForward #storytelling #Houston2016

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