Harbor Light Editor’s Corner: Sparking a Community

Editor’s Corner: Sparking a Community
We’ve talked a lot about what it means to call Harbor Springs home. And I could keep on talking about it (and will, of course) for many years to come. I could write entire columns on the smells of autumn alone; sweet, damp hay baled in the fields, bursts of earth and fallen leaves so crisp they linger long after coming inside; the water, cool and choppy against the shore. I could write about our farmers pulling the orange, yellow, and deep green colors of fall from their fields. How we know these farmers’ names, their stories, and they know ours too. I could try to wax poetic about what if feels like to live here in the “off” season.

But I’m not sure I believe in off-seasons anymore.

Instead, I believe in four seasons of community, because that’s what exists here.

We at the Harbor Light are humbled to serve as the community’s voice and platform, particularly during these times of discussion about the future of our area. It’s our role to bring forth information and ideas and stories– and then its up to all of us to make connections, have civil discourse, work together.

Because we have different interests, different sparks, different passions.

For me, that spark became a straight-up wildfire when I visited the Front Street Writers program in Traverse City. A dynamic partnership between the public school system and the National Writers Series, it is a perfect example of what connected communities can make happen (and make happen for their most important population– young people). I fell in love the moment I walked into the downtown Traverse City space that serves as an afternoon classroom for kids who are interested in creative writing. The beams, the cool furniture, a combination of a public school teacher and a Writer-in-Residence…The whole vibe was creative, inspiring. I watched students walk in, get settled, begin workshopping. I listened to NWS founder Doug Stanton talk about starting the program the way some folks describe their grocery list. It was simple. He wanted kids to get the same kind of experience he did as a student at Interlochen Arts Academy. For free and for credit, at no cost to the public school system. So he– and the open minded and supportive team at Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS)– made it happen. I found myself peppering Stanton and NWS executive director Jill Tewsley with questions: how does it work? What do the hours look like? How does the school release the teacher? How is the curriculum aligned with state standards? How will it sustain itself? How do kids get here?

And to be honest, I was answered with a few blank stares.

Why? Because those kinds of questions miss the whole point.

If Stanton– or TCAPS board president, Gary Appel, who ran with this idea– had mucked about too long in the logistics, which are no doubt messy and challenging, the Front Street Writers program may never have come into existence. Instead, they started with a small seed. A brilliant idea. A community-giving and community-building opportunity, and they ran with it. Worked backwards from end goal to nitty gritty details to make it happen in less than two years time.

It’s exactly the kind of energy we need here. I look at programs like Front Street Writers and I’m floored. It’s an opportunity that creates a buzz for a place. The kind of buzz that could bring more year-round families to our area. Of course, the writing speaks to me, but this sort of model can be transformed to enhance so many different pieces of education. Imagine a farmer’s co-op with a studentrun deli inside– where kids would get first hand business, graphic design, management, culinary experiences while connecting deeply with community and sense of place. Imagine masters classes with writers or painters or theatre professionals or engineers or retired physicists. Imagine until you find your spark, then take your idea and run with it. Let us hear about it. Let us help connect the Stantons and Appels of our area. And let’s start right now.

In spirited partnership,
Kate Bassett