Articles by

Jonathan Harwell-Dye

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    Above: The former Bibb Mill auditorium, will become the Mill Hill Community Arts Center. Courtesy Macon Arts Alliance.  In just a few days, artists Samantha Hill, of Chicago, and Ed Woodham, of New York, will move into Macon’s Fort Hawkins neighborhood, to become artists-in-residence. Together, they will be engaging residents in creating a vision for turning the “Birthplace of Macon” into Mill Hill: East Macon Arts Village. New funding from Knight Foundation to the Macon Arts Alliance is helping to promote this broad-based resident engagement, by matching a National Endowment for the Arts Our Town grant for a neighborhood and cultural district planning process. The grant also funds the establishment of a Community Land Trust for the area, which will help maintain Mill Hill as an affordable place to live, especially for those who have long resided there. Green Team walking from interview. Photo via Macon Arts Alliance. Once a village for people working at a local mill, the Fort Hawkins neighborhood is now 46 percent vacant and blighted. Disconnected from the economic drivers around it, we hope that Mill Hill will be a catalyst for economic opportunity. It’s all part of the Macon Action Plan, a comprehensive roadmap for the city’s urban core led by the Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority. The Mill Hill initiative is a resident and partner-led planning process for creative placemaking, which focuses on developing vibrant public spaces where the community can meet and connect.  We’re using an asset-based framework centered on building a community from the inside out, using the strengths of local people and places for more equitable and sustainable community development. Identifying local assets began with the Macon Roving Listeners, a group that hires youth and adults with and without disabilities, to listen to the stories of their neighbors and identify their gifts, talents and passions. At community dinners, the Roving Listeners bring neighbors together around shared interests to teach and learn from one another. The collection of stories about the neighborhood, the people and their gifts is compiled to create the “asset map.”
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    With less than two months until the 9th Annual Macon Film Festival (MaGa), big changes are afoot. In mid-October, festival organizers hosted a reception at the SoChi Gallery in downtown Macon to announce new board members and a new mission statement. Late Monday night, MaGa Board President Terrell Sandefur announced...