Singer-songwriter Dar Williams launched Virginia Main Street’s Finding Main Street book club at the 2018 Downtown Intersections with a performance and talk on “Thinking in Bridges.”
“We think we have so much divisiveness,” she said. “But the opposite of divisiveness is not unity. It is collaboration.”
Williams found plenty of collaboration in the successful communities profiled in her placemaking and community development book, What I Found in a Thousand Towns. These are towns she has seen rise and thrive over her nearly three decades of touring. Williams asserts that they created “positive proximity” by:
- Creating spaces that foster loose forms of communication and connection across residents.
- Undertaking collective identity building projects that override the differences of the individuals contributing to them.
- Welcoming the contributions of all willing citizens.
Across Virginia, the Finding Main Street Book Club will explore the strategies at work in Main Street communities. A toolkit is available in a tab at the top of this page. It currently includes:
- Tips for hosting a book club (PDF)
- Flyer templates and social media images
- Video Release Schedule (PDF)
- Discussion guides
- Promotional video
- Video tour of toolkit
Beginning on September 4, videos will be added weekly to highlight chapter concepts at work in Virginia’s Main Street network. In spring 2019, follow-up videos will showcase community conversations resulting from the book clubs. For the 2019 Downtown Intersections Idea Pitch, communities will be invited to propose projects inspired by the book and compete for funding to support the projects.
If you’d like to talk about book club ideas or the benefits of hosting one, contact your Main Street representative or Doug Jackson at 804-418-9878 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember you’re never in this alone–reach out to your likely partners locally, including book stores and libraries, and see what you can get started.
The book club model was piloted in Roanoke in the fall of 2017, where chapter discussions highlighted local leaders and organizations undertaking strategies featured in the book. Find more information from the pilot, including press and session descriptions, at bookcityroanoke.com.
Finding Main Street is a project of the Virginia Main Street Program at the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development with support from Virginia Community Capital, Virginia Tourism Corporation, Virginia Humanities , and Book City ★ Roanoke.