Signs of a #CollectiveAction Success
I was invited to an event at The American Sign Museum in Cincinnati’s Camp Washington neighborhood last week. I have been traveling and not great with details on my calendar. I just showed up not really knowing what I was getting in to. I trust when friends say, “You need to be there,” I need to be there. I have wanted to see the new home of the sign museum, anyway.
As I walked in with Wordplay Executive Director Libby Hunter, she mentioned that she couldn’t wait to see “the sign.” We were going to see for the first time the “Urban Legend Institute” sign that will hang over Worplay’s retail space and social enterprise arm. Social enterprise is a means for nonprofits to go beyond grants and donations to fund programs, such as Wordplay’s free after-school literacy and creative writing programs. Think Girl Scout Cookies. That’s social enterprise.
The event was a sneak preview of a project showcasing 11 street signs to be unveiled Black Friday at businesses along Northside’s Hamilton Avenue district. Each sign is unique and well executed, fitting in well with the sign museum’s quality and class displays of classics. Of course, I have to favor The Urban Legend Institute’s stained glass sign featuring a jumping jackalope. It’s a perfect personification of what whimsical products will be in store as Wordplay’s social enterprise project unfolds.
The CoSign project is a partnership between the sign museum, the Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation and Northsiders to design and install a critical mass of new signage along Hamilton Avenue’s business district. Fifty-two artists submitted designs and 11 were chosen. Five will be on the corner of Hamilton and Blue Rock Road, where Wordplay is housed in a former retail space that was once the site of Northside’s iconic “Crazy Ladies” Bookstore.
“CoSign was an incredible community-building exercise, I think it was executed very well,” James Heller-Jackson, board member of the Northside Community Council and the Northside Business Association, said in The Business Courier last week. Eric Avner, who spearheaded the project with a $150,000 Haile/U.S.Bank Foundation grant, added: “The overall premise was to see if we could enliven a business district.”
Similar projects may be possible in other neighborhoods. It was a good idea to try it out in Northside. I spend a lot of time there as a board board member and volunteer for Wordplay. Northside is a unique community where collective action rules — neighbors help neighbors, small businesses support one another.
If you are trying to make a living or working to change the world in Northside, your friends and neighbors got your back, big time. If you want to see best practices in community building and collective action, take a swing over to Northside Friday or soon.
Just watch out for the jackalopes.
Charitable Words founder Tom Callinan is a board member and volunteer at Wordplay Cincinnati.