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During their time with us, we were able to show them some of our successful “Chester Made” projects and share dialogue around what is working in making Chester, Chester.After spending a day together, the Fellows expressed that Chester felt like “home” to them.We have rebuilt an historic theater, created a makers-space for artists, expanded our restaurant community — all the while transforming the downtown and bringing business back to Chester.
If something is not considered “of value,” then it doesn’t attract the investment necessary to increase its worth over time.
It’s true of artwork and it’s true of communities that have suffered from the kind of neglect that creates a spiral of decline from which few places can recover. We see a future where resiliency and resourcefulness will ultimately win the day.
But sometimes, you don’t need a map to point you in the right direction.
For me, “Chester Made” is an affirmation of what has been my lifelong dedication to the city that has formed who I am as an artist and entrepreneur.
We now own more than a dozen properties throughout the community and are proud that we’ve been able to jump start revitalization that is both home-grown and home-inspired.
Some of the other work that has emerged from “Chester Made” includes a video film series called “Illuminate Chester”.While Dandridge was a giant in our cultural landscape, to me he was simply my “Uncle Bill.” He and others served as role models to me and countless others making their mark today including award-winning rapper/producer Jahlil Beats and graphic artist Kenny “Art Monster” Hunt.These and others to come will add to the cultural legacy of this troubled, but nurturing town.Chester Made Artistic Director Devon Walls leads the crowd in a robust song as Chester Made workshop leader Sistah Mafalda accompanies with African drumming during the Chester Made and Mandela Washington Fellowship Exchange 2019.(Greg Irvin) A famous artist once said, “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” While those words can apply to any artistic expression, this sentiment also pertains to how we – as a society — judge what might or might not be worthy of our time, attention and resources.By doing this, art can mitigate the numbing effect created by the glut of information we are faced with today, and motivate people to turn thinking into doing. The arts and culture represent one of the few areas in our society where people can come together to share an experience even if they see the world in radically different ways.The important thing is not that we agree about the experience that we share, but that we consider it worthwhile sharing an experience at all.When we are touched, we are moved; we are transported to a new place that is, nevertheless, strongly rooted in a physical experience, in our bodies.We become aware of a feeling that may not be unfamiliar to us but which we did not actively focus on before.This transformative experience is what art is constantly seeking.I believe that one of the major responsibilities of artists – and the idea that artists have responsibilities may come as a surprise to some – is to help people not only get to know and understand something with their minds but also to feel it emotionally and physically.