Upham's Corner Online

UrbanSites @ the Strand Collaborative Issues RFP

Posted: February 15, 2012     Nancy J Conrad

UrbanSites is an arts collaborative in its formative stages.  It began meeting in the Fall of 2012, pretty much the brain-child of Barbara Lewis from the U-Mass Boston's Trotter Institute.

The group has expanded to include a plethora of high-powered, caring and visionary arts and community activists - significant funding organizations as well.  They are LOOKING at Upham's Corner with an artful eye - not just prettying it up, but as Ron Lamme said - economic development using the arts.

Strand Theatre Boston The arts can transform a community, a society, the world.  Boston has been the revolutionary home to so many movements.  Bringing arts to Upham's Corner and transforming the community is a revolutionary idea.  "Too! revolutionary," some say.  "Whose going to come here?" others ask.

And that is the point.

There is SOOO much distance between the Upham's Corner of today and the Upham's Corner that will be.  That differential has the power to start a tsunami of change. 

At a recent UrbanSites meeting, the message stated over and over was this:  "Get the community involved now - in the planning stages, not when you are trying to get them to attend events you have already planned." Not including the community in the formative stages will only lead to failure.

No! you don't have to attend a bunch of meetings but your creative input and ideas? - well, that's the beginning of what shall be. 

Who ARE You?

You are the fertilized egg looking for a nourishing community (like Upham's Corner)
You are the seed on sail with its whip like tail looking to sprout wings in Upham's Corner
You are the Cape Verdean lady walking with her package perfectly balanced on her head
You are the Greater Upham's Corner youth longing for a return of the Strand Teen Players
You are the Upham's Corner saints who have gone before but who continue to pray
You are the winding and lush green of the Emerald Necklace - a continuation of Frederick Law Olmsted's vision for Upham's Corner

Who are YOU? 

You are a name, great or small, added to the list of those who have come together to create Upham's Corner anew.


UrbanSites has issued an RFP for a stage play that maps out how Upham's Corner will be transformed from a sleepy community with a bad reputation to a sparkling and revitalized community with a Strand Crowning Jewel at its center.

Your job (as writer or dreamer or prophet) is to respond to the RFP. Write the play.  Create the plan. 

Upham's Corner WILL become a Center for the Arts with an educational campus, adult education, performing arts, creative arts, a world-class reputation.  Get involved. Create the Upham's Corner of the future.

Who are you in the community?  What do you stand for?  What is your personal background, ethnicity, race, gender, artistic sensibilities? All of that is relevant to creating a unique and authentic, vibrant and interactive community.

Do I have to be a resident of Upham's Corner to respond?  Certainly not, but a Friend of Upham's Corner? Yes. 
  • Can I be a student at Berklee, U-Mass, MIT? 
  • Can I be an artist or a resident or youngun'?
  • Can I be a committed and crazy advocate of life who wants to lead in the transformation? 
Absolutely.  Bring it on.
Upham's Corner
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Many Eyes are Focused

Many eyes are focused on Upham's Corner, a tiny neighborhood in North Dorchester that is only 0.33 square miles (according to the BRA) with a population density of over 20,000 people per square mile.  

The BRA wears the first set of a thousand glistening eyes.  On Feb 21 2012 they announced the BRA transportation planning initiative for the Fairmount Indigo line which includes the Upham's Corner planning initiative that has been on the verge of birth since May 2011.

But there is another set of eyes - beautifully decorated and more sensitive - borne by members of an arts group known as UrbanSites@ The Strand Collaborative.  Comprised of representatives from Main Street, the Trotter Institute, the University of Massachusetts at Boston, the Strand Theatre and others who have an interest in the arts, this group has been meeting since the fall of 2011.

Originally set up to focus on supporting and rejuvenating the Strand Theatre, the group has adjusted its sights to a longer perspective, one that looks at the community (Upham's Corner) in which the Strand is situated first and sees the Strand at the epicenter of a community which, if rejuvenated will enhance the Strand. 

In other words, they see the Strand and the community partnered.  "Tea for two and two for tea.  Me for you and you for me..."  

The Gulf:  Dream and the Reality

Wouldn't it be nice if the Strand Theater were a thriving performing arts venue which frequently brought visitors to Upham's Corner who then spent money here?

Wouldn’t it be nice!  But it's not true.  

While the City of Boston Department of Arts, Tourism and Special Events can cite statistics demonstrating how the Strand Theater's programming meets expectations compared with all other comparable venues in the City of Boston, at the present time the benefit conveyed to the Upham’s Corner community is marginal at best. 

The Dream Visitors arrive early or stay late, to shop here or eat at a local restaurant.
The Reality The Upham’s Corner community has almost nothing to offer a visitor.

Most of the Upham’s Corner businesses do not attract people from outside the community.  

No coffee shops, no bookstores, no art galleries, no art dealers, one Dominican restaurant that opened recently but has since closed, a Cape Verdean restaurant but not within walking distance.  There are the usual hair salons, clothing and shoe stores, small furniture stores, small markets, a decent Spanish grocer, a CVS, three bank branches, churches, non-profits and lots of houses and people.  

As one local resident stated:  “Upham’s Corner is one of the most densely populated communities within walking distance of … nothing.”

UrbanSites Issues RFP

Calling all writers.  UrbanSites @ The Strand Collaborative is issuing an RFP for a stage play to be performed at the Strand Theater.  

The Setting:
  • An older but historically significant theater of limited size under renovation
  • An economically depressed community
  • A community with a bad reputation and a high murder rate
  • An insular community where many residents don’t speak English
  • A theater that Mayor Menino has proclaimed is worth saving.  
  • A business district of many historically significant buildings
  • A city-appointed task force (2004) outlining a plan for Strand success
  • A failure to identify even one organization to manage the Strand
  • A Task Force report that has fallen by the wayside
  • A business district with many empty buildings (not storefronts)
  • A potential for the arts that lies dormant (but not for long)

The Plot

The plot is open to your creative imagination and vision for Upham’s Corner.  Who are the players? What is the sequence of events? How do the players interact so as to effect change? What is the memorable dialogue?

The only requirements are these:
  • At the end of the play, (less than five years), both the Strand and the Upham’s Corner community are on a strong path towards economic and community revitalization.  
  • The Strand has an outstanding reputation, attracting many visitors annually.  
  • The Upham’s Corner community has an equally positive reputation.
  • During the play hint at the behind the scenes political wrangling but don't dwell on it.
  • Develop characters across age, racial and ethnic spectrums whose lives are changed as part of the community transformative process
  • Upham's Corner is a campus - a Center for Education and the Arts
  • Must be a tear jerker
  • If possible, make it a musical (have any musical friends?)
Worth all the Effort

Not an easy assignment but worth every penny of the fame that is yours - the sight of your name high on the Marquee of the Strand – the sense of personal and life changing accomplishment. 

Good luck.

Conract Upham's Corner News for more information or how to speak directly with the movers and shakers of UrbanSites.
uphamscornernews@gmail.com

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