What’s Up Downtown Grassroots Renaissance

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It’s a Saturday night and Downtown Flint is packed with pedestrians. The Capitol Theatre is hosting a show, Flint Local 432 is rocking, a local rapper is performing at Riverbank Park, Brush and Buckham Alleys are flush with art and poetry, and the Flint City Bucks are playing a pivotal match at Atwood Stadium. What do you do? Where do you go? Maybe you hit the Flat Lot for the silent disco or visit Flint City Hard Cider to enjoy a drink and an acoustic set? The point is that you have options and Flint’s Downtown is as vibrant and accommodating as it ever was. The best part: the majority of the Downtown excitement has been created by area residents who had an idea and the drive to make it happen. The first step toward this reality is the recently-launched What’s Up Downtown.

The initiative is the result of the year-long efforts of Flint Director of Placemaking, Kady Yellow, and her team. “I believe in a grassroots approach to placemaking,” she says. “What’s Up Downtown provides support for socially directed pop-up activities and space activation within guidelines. We will connect you with the appropriate place and program to make your idea happen.” With What’s Up Downtown, residents have a chance to transform their own Downtown spaces into areas that reflect Flint’s true talent and heart. “In Flint, something special is brewing and the paths that lead to a cultural renaissance are there,” says Yellow. “The people who know best how to celebrate an area are its residents. We have the spaces for people to come in and activate with simple events or promotions. The process of community buy-in is implicit for the growth of a city focused on a hyper-local economy.” With What’s Up Downtown, Yellow hopes to showcase the city’s rich art and culture and transform Flint into a known family-friendly entertainment destination.

And, how the city is showcased is up to the residents. What’s Up Downtown is a vehicle for interested citizens to use a Downtown space in a new and positive way. The possibilities are endless! “What’s Up Downtown is here to support you in your endeavor – to a point,” informs Yellow. “It’s not for big festivals, but for small workshops or showcases for around a few hundred people. We want to celebrate the area with all it has to offer and fill the calendar.”

What’s Up is looking for ideas that cost around $2,000 to implement. The process is simple. Go to whatsup-downtown.com, click on “Get Involved” and fill out the form. If your idea “fits,” the What’s Up team will contact you and begin helping to make your idea a reality. They will assist with the crowdfunding process, the required logistics and appropriate contacts. Already, What’s Up Downtown has helped raise over $20,000 for activities that include a silent disco, small art markets, yoga classes and others. Once your idea is scheduled and ready to go, it will join other such ideas on the event calendar posted on the whatsup-downtown.com home page. “We hope that everyone will consult the calendar daily,” says Yellow. “It would be nice to have about ten or so different things happening at the same time, so people have options and can find something they will really enjoy.” What’s Up Downtown is for everyone. Storytellers, poets, instructors, fashion designers, musicians, athletes, etc., are welcome to “remake” the city in any way they wish; to utilize all of its spaces in ways never imagined.

Yellow sees Flint’s potential in all of its blank spaces. To her, they are the empty pages in Flint’s history book just waiting to be filled. “Its hustling spirit, style and talent is what brought me to Flint. I came here from New Orleans as part of an artist exchange program,” Yellow shares. “I felt that it was a perfect fit for all of the tools I had gathered from my travels after ten years as a placemaker in little Homer, Alaska to Brooklyn and beyond.

“This city is full of raw and original talent. It’s a maker’s market and relatively untapped. Too much talent falls through the cracks,” she continues. “We have to support it and recognize that it exists and What’s Up Downtown is a way to shine a light on the talent for all to see. I can’t really compare Flint to anywhere else; it’s full of creativity and originality that needs to be displayed and enjoyed.”

To present your idea or to visit the daily social calendar, visit whatsup-downtown.com.

“The people who know best how to celebrate an area are its residents. We have the spaces for people to come in and activate with simple events or promotions.” Kady Yellow


Photos provided by What’s Up Downtown

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