On June 17th, 2017, the Lipsey Buffalo Architecture Center came alive with the buzz of collaborative problem solving. Students from the Cornell High Road Fellows program, Oishei Leaders from local non-profit organizations, Oishei staff and Board members and representatives from the Architecture Center worked together to create four Tape Art murals, stretching their leadership muscles and exploring the challenges that face those working to make a difference in our communities.
The theme of the day was “Navigating Narratives”. Like every city, Buffalo is defined by the stories that are told about it. It is too often the case that narratives about cities are dominated by a focus on problems and struggles. These problems become ingrained in the identity of urban communities in a way that makes them even harder to overcome. Even when progress is being made, negative narratives can make it seem like there is no hope for meaningful change.
For this project, participants were tasked with retelling these stories. They entered a space with four drawings representing the most pressing challenges that Buffalo faces today. These drawings transformed the issues of economic inequality, segregation, disenfranchisement, and urban sprawl into monsters worthy of myth. In teams, participants worked together to draw the counter narratives to these social monsters directly over the original drawings. The new narratives featured solutions to each social issue through the lens of social justice warriors.
The day ended with a discussion of the power of collaboration in solving problems and the power of using narratives in the work of social justice.