One World Flower Fest
A festival celebrating spring, mothers, art, and culture could transform Utica’s Oneida Square into a beautiful neighborhood center and lively social space–for Mother’s Day weekend and beyond.
We are working to make the One World Flower Fest a day long celebration of spring, mothers, art and culture in Utica’s Oneida Square. The festival is a creative placemaking project that will beautify and enliven the Square and make it the place to be on Saturday, May 9th (Mother’s Day Weekend). We hope to make the neighborhood pulse and beat with people, music, art, and positive energy.
The festival will produce lasting social, aesthetic, and economic effects on the neighborhood. Streetscape improvements will last the summer, the event will attract future users, funders, and investors, and energy to the ‘heart’ of Utica, and the planning process will catalyze future collaboration among residents, businesses, and organizations. We’ll see what we can do when we work together, collectively combining our talents, resources, and creativity.
1. Our growing coalition of individuals and organizations active in the Utica community will finalize the festival’s design and programming, identify collaborators to take on projects and events, and publicize our fundraising campaign (1 week).
2. With the grant money, we will purchase the tools and materials for a series of community ‘making’ events:’ barn-raising-style community gatherings in which we’ll construct community chalkboards, flower banners, handmade street furniture, a big flower garland to go on the Oneida Square monument, wall murals, container gardens, chalk art crosswalk stenciling, flower-tree sculptures, flower globes designed by area artists, sign-boards, kiosks, and a community ‘nest’ art garden on the lawns of Munson Williams Proctor Institute (2 weeks).
3. The weeks before the event, we will publicize the festival schedule in local media, generate buzz (in social media and on the streets), ready the festival components, and host a neighborhood clean-up of the square (2 weeks).
4. On Saturday, May 9th, we’ll throw Oneida Square a grand party, honor all mothers, and revel flowers, artwork, culture, springtime, and the power of community (1 day).
5. The One World Flower Festival will live on past mother’s day–it will have dispersed flowers, art, community, and joy throughout Utica. Most of the physical improvements will last for the summer, and the memory of the event will beckon people back to the Square and inspire organizers to repeat the event next year (and beyond).
why we’re doing it
We want to bring people and affection back to Oneida Square, a neighborhood was once served a grand center of Utica’s urban life. ‘Urban Renewal’ of the ‘50s gave the intersection over to cars and traffic. The unsafe pedestrian environment, together with industrial decline, caused people to abandon Oneida Square and left it vulnerable to crime. Uticans perceive their Square as lonely, sad, abandoned, bleak, dangerous and, in the recent words of one local teen, “boring!”
Utica faces challenges not unlike its big sister cities of Detroit, Cleveland, East St. Louis, and Camden. It is a distressed post-industrial rust belt community with a current population of 62,235, down from 100,000 in the 1960s. The majority of Utica, including the Oneida Square neighborhood, is designated a distressed Census Tract with greater than 51% poverty. Utica’s urban landscape retains less than 50% of its original tree canopy, many acres of unremediated brownfield sites, and upwards of 3,500 vacant lots where houses and factories once stood. Utica serves as a refugee haven, with recent refugees hailing from Bosnia, Somalia, Iraq, Burma, and Thailand. The increased diversity has brought about a resurgence of Utica’s urban life.
The One World Flower Festival is a pro-active action to bring people and place together in a positive way around Oneida Square. It will provide an opportunity to produce safe, fun, and memorable experiences that foster happiness, joy, and a sense of community pride. The Festival will help Uticans leverage local capacity to bring social, aesthetic, and economic benefits to the neighborhood, proving to the world that Oneida Square is a place in which to live, shop, work, invest, and to share with family and friends.