Making and remaking in Springfield
Springfield, Massachusetts, is 25 miles from the UMass Amherst campus. The commonwealth’s third-largest city is the birthplace of basketball, Dr. Seuss, and the country’s first gasoline-powered automobile. A once-great manufacturing center, Springfield has made it through many ups and downs and still stands tall.
I’ve worked in Springfield for over 15 years. As the UMass Extension associate professor of regional planning, my role helps fulfill the university’s land-grant responsibility to provide teaching, outreach, and public service to communities across Massachusetts. Moving beyond UMass Extension’s original agricultural focus, my work addresses the needs of the state’s urban areas, in particular nearby Holyoke and Springfield.
On our first day, 150 people came through the doors to sew, build small robots, and make art. People kept coming.
Many of my Springfield initiatives are based on a planning concept called “tactical urbanism.” Instead of creating long-term plans, this approach consists of low-cost, often temporary installations set up in cities as pilot projects to test new ideas quickly. It’s a great way to work with the community to see what’s working (and what isn’t) in real time.
Make-It Springfield, the community art and makerspace I helped start, began as a way to bring life back to a row of vacant storefronts in the city’s downtown cultural district. With help from UMass students and colleagues, I spent a long weekend in the spring of 2016 painting, cleaning, and moving furniture into a space that had sat empty for too many years.