SPRINGFIELD – From a party on Main Street, to uncovering of new public art, and a vivid celebration of culture, a trio of events on Sept. 8 in Downtown Springfield put the definition of “community” on full display.
The BLOCK Party’s organizer Benjamin Wilkinson said it was “a wild success,” and believes there were thousands of people who went to the event.
“I said the same thing last year, but they have totally different definitions now,” Wilkinson said.
Many businesses on Main Street noticed an influx in business last Friday night. Chuck and Alice owner Christopher Randall said this year’s BLOCK Party was just like last year – “but on steroids.”
“I feel really lucky to be here in Springfield surrounded by good people,” Randall said.
In addition to increased sales, storefronts and businesses with booths were able to get exposure and introduce themselves to the Springfield community.
“We’re just trying to create the awareness that we’re here and exist,” said Abram Hurd, who works at Little Axe Records. “People in the neighborhood are like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know there was a record store here.’ And it’s like, ‘Yeah, we’re neighbors. Come on down!’”
As Main Street flooded with people, there was an overwhelming sense of togetherness and camaraderie.
“I think people were kinda like, ‘Well, what is The BLOCK Party?’ And I think the long and short of it is that it’s an opportunity for Springfield to come together,” Wilkinson said. “There’s bands and music and beverage gardens and games and prizes and art and performances – but it’s really the community coming together as a community, and I think it’s just so very clear that that’s what we love about it.”
Herencia Hispana was held at the Springfield Public Library, just a block away from The BLOCK Party. It had music from 5-10 p.m., a food truck, and booths which circled the stage. The vendors and organizations set up at Herencia Hispana were all Latinx-focused for the event.
Mindy Linder of the Springfield Public Library said The BLOCK Party “gelled really well with the annual Hispanic heritage celebration.” Linder was promoting some of the library’s resources as well as signing people up for library cards and distributing free books.
Yareli Hernández said she liked that people were migrating from The BLOCK Party toward Herencia Hispana, creating a mix of cultures, because their enthusiasm was apparent. Hernández was there tabling for Comunidad Y Herencia Cultural, an organization based in Eugene and Springfield which provides resources for Latinx people as well as community engagement events.
“I grew up loving the Latin culture, but there honestly weren’t a lot of places to be involved,” Hernández said.
Herencia Hispana means “Hispanic heritage,” and that’s what this annual event celebrates. It brings people together to appreciate Latinx culture and gives Latinx people a place to gather and be part of that community.
“Labor Builds Community” mural
To top the night off, The Acadamy of Arts and Academics (A3) also unveiled its new mural, “Labor Builds Community.”
“The mural celebrates the labor and the struggles of generations of working people and their unions to build better lives for themselves, for their families, and for their communities,” said Kurt Wilcox, who is the of the Springfield Labor Bureau project Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
Wilcox added that the mural was also a tribute to Jesse Bostelle, former leader with SEIU, and the mural Alison McNair painted on Main Street and 5th Street in 2001 to celebrate Bostelle.
“Labor Builds Community” is split into six sections. The left five focus on key elements of the Springfield economy, and the very right section focuses on union advocacy.
“(The mural) really is all about the community coming together and making this happen,” A3 principal Ame Beard said. “That’s what’s so beautiful about it: All these different organizations worked together to make more art in our town, which we really need.”
The mural also signifies the importance of diversity.
“In this mural, we’re representing the timber industry, agriculture, medicine, education, the protesters, the construction workers, so everyone’s union leaders had some feedback of what they wanted to see or things they didn’t want to see. The main characters had to be all diverse – and not in stereotypical jobs for anyone,” said Alejandro Sarmiento, who was the lead artist on the mural.
Sarmiento said the process of creating the mural made him learn a lot – and that he was really impressed with all the students who collaborated on “Labor Builds Community.”
A3 junior Olivia Ellis-Holden said this was also a learning experience for her. Working on the mural helped her step out of her “perfectionist bubble” as an artist and focus less on the details and more on the whole piece.
“The most important part of the process was to explore,” Olivia said. “By watching Alejandro paint, I was able to transfer some of what I was seeing into my own painting, and that was a really useful skill in understanding light and shadows. I really just got so much out of the experience, and I’m really greatful to everyone involved.”
Lane Arts Council executive director Stacey Ray said “this mural truly encompasses why art – especially community-centric, public art projects like this one – have such a meaningful impact.”
“Art is the megaphone to give a voice to the issues that we care about the most,” Ray said. “It highlights the histories that we need to remember, the present we want to, the future that we envisioned, and it calls us to action.”
The word on everybody’s lips when talking about last Friday night was “community.” All three events brought Springfield together to celebrate what makes Springfield Springfield: each other.