A diverse group of seventy-five individuals from all walks of life sat in a circle, looking at a stack of blank paper and markers in the center of the floor. Once the instructions were given, a flurry of action erupted as participants began approaching the center, writing their topics for discussion on pieces of paper and announcing them out loud, then posting them on the “Market Place” wall.
Held at the new Hamilton Stage for the Performing Arts on Jan. 11 and 12, “Creative Rahway: A Call to Collaboration” brought together Rahway stakeholders in a cross-sector meeting about issues and ideas concerning the city of Rahway. The Creative Rahway host team was formed from within the community – eleven individuals representing various interests organized the convening with the assistance of Creative New Jersey staff and volunteers. Creative New Jersey has worked with local groups to launch Calls to Collaboration in Monmouth County, Morristown, Rahway, and plans to in Orange in March 2013.
The Creative Rahway host team members extended invitations to other community stakeholders. Participants spanned many segments of the population – residents, business owners, artists and arts advocates, public service employees, and educators, to name a few – and various demographics, to bring people representing the entire community together as a group.
The theme question — How can our evolving community ignite creativity and innovation to ensure a thriving Rahway? — led to over sixty topics raised for discussion during the course of this two-day open space convening. The structure of the convening allowed for all subjects to be considered for breakout discussions. Sessions ranged from “How can we bridge the gap between the Arts and Athletics?” to “How can we encourage reinvestment in our downtown from within our community?”
In an atmosphere of collaboration and focused energy, spontaneous brainstorming sessions sprang up among participants, relevant conversations took place, and groups formed around specific action items, including “branding” Rahway, and a new task force called “Creative Rahway for Education”.
As the convening came to an end, Creative Rahway participants felt — in their own words — “Optimistic”, “Hopeful”, and “Excited” about Rahway and their role in helping to shape the town’s future.
Creative Rahway: A Call to Collaboration was sponsored by Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation, Allume Events, Creative New Jersey, Kim’s InTheMix, Little Portugal BBQ & Restaurant, Luciano’s Ristorante & Lounge, Patria, Rahway Arts District, The Rail House 1449, Social Impact Studios, and Union County Performing Arts Center.
Those interested in becoming involved in the Creative Rahway movement can ‘Like’ the Creative Rahway community Facebook page.
Creative Drinks, an informal follow-up gathering to the Call to Collaboration, will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 27, at 5:30 p.m. at The Rail House’s new annex at 1443 Irving St. in Rahway. Creative Drinks is an event created by the Arts Council of the Morris Area and Creative Morristown. The idea was so popular that it is being launched by Creative Rahway as well.
For more information on Creative Rahway, email firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Creative New Jersey’s statewide initiative, visit creativenj.org.