By Brian Hendershot

Thanks to a Youth Development and Empowerment grant from the city of Sacramento, Block by Block will spend the 2021 fiscal year engaging the neighborhoods of Meadowview and Valley Hi through community journalism and art mapping.

Conceived in 2015, Block by Block seeks to enhance the quality of life in Sacramento’s urban core through hyper-local, community-led experiences that promote interconnectivity. Over the past five years, it has engaged more than 40,000 community members and 400 artists and employed an ever-growing number of “art-ivists” through its youth Street Team and Art Impact Fellows programs.

The youth-led 2021 project was motivated in part by projects like South Side Pride and Capital Public Radio’s Making Meadowview podcast, which posed a single question: How do people solve problems when the odds seem stacked against them? In its answer, the podcast pushed back against harmful stereotypes to showcase a community filled with rich, cultural history and inspiring community leaders.

Block by Block has continuously evolved to meet the needs of the community since its original 2015 conception.

Community Engagement Coordinator Faith McKinnie, who envisioned this iteration of Block by Block, is keenly aware of the many families left behind by the COVID-era transition to digital programs and events — especially in lower-income households that lack internet or computer access. Since Block by Block may not be able to offer pop-up experiences within Meadowview, we will make art accessible through a set of creativity kits distributed through four community organizations, plus an art mapping project.

The kits are a continuation of Block by Block’s Color Us Hopeful project, a series of art resources created in partnership with local artists. The new effort focuses on works from the Crocker’s collection that speak to the communities to which they are being distributed.

Among the artists represented are Jamie Okuma (Luiseño/Shoshone-Bannock, born 1977), Akinsanya Kambon (American, born 1946), Betye Saar (American, born 1926), Tino Rodriguez (American, born Mexico, 1965), and Ramiro Gomez (American, born 1986).

The teen-led community mapping project was motivated by the Sojourner Truth African Heritage Museum with the goal of identifying cultural leaders and resources in Sacramento City council districts 7 and 8. The project was made possible in part by Bank of America, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Kingsley Art Club, Murphy Austin Adams Schoenfeld LLP, Sacramento Office of Art & Culture, and City of Sacramento Department of Youth, Parks & Community Enrichment.

Top Image: Community Engagement Coordinator Faith McKinnie packing Color Us Hopeful activity kits.

About the Author: Brian Hendershot serves as the Crocker's primary support editor, writer, and occasional audiovisual editor. Before joining the Crocker, he was the Head of Communications at the Museum of the Red River in Oklahoma. He also sat on the McCurtain County Historical Board of Directors and the Crocker's MASS Action Committee. He received his MA in Communications at Drury University in Missouri.