Story by Kevin Alan Lamb
Despite the abundance of technology, resources, and good humans in the world, something so seemingly simple as happiness continues to elude the masses. Langhorne Slim sings, “You have to learn to get a little happy along the way.”
When I walk the streets of our Ferndale community my eyes gaze into human beings of all shapes, sizes, colors, and sexual orientation, and I recognize the very happiness that soothes and satisfies my soul. No matter the waves made by bigots, bastards, and bureaucracy, people of this community fight the good fight to ensure that it is a safe, sacred, and protected place. People like Cindy Willcock, who has spent the last seven years growing her role from a volunteer to the interim Executive Director of the DDA.
“I wouldn’t consider the transition to Interim ED difficult as much as it is challenging. I’ve always held a more behind the scenes role, so being on the front line, more in the spotlight, is not something I’m used to. But I love a challenge, so I’m getting used to leading meetings, public speaking and answering interview questions. The scope of the position is wide, varied and enormous! Business support, economic development, recruitment, organization, planning, budgeting, grants and sponsorships… The support that has come during this time… from our Board of Directors, City officials and staff, business owners, residents and the most amazing group of volunteers anywhere… has been tremendous!” Willcock says.
The DDA is the economic redevelopment engine for Downtown Ferndale. Since 2014 it has registered more than $7.6 million in private and public sector investments and added 262 net new jobs to the downtown workforce. A graduate of Ferndale schools, Willcock’s grandparents moved here in the 1920’s and instilled in her a deeply- rooted sense of community and art.
“My grandfather was a coppersmith and I used to get to go to local art shows with my grandparents, which opened me up to all kinds of art and artists. Growing up, being part of your community, helping others and making a difference was just what you did. My parents coached our soccer teams, volunteered in our classrooms and were active in what happened in Ferndale. Politics, events, commissions, you name it, they did it! On my 18th birthday, my mom made me go to city hall and register to vote, because everybody counts and it’s your duty to be informed, engaged and help make your world a better place. Plus, I found out that you meet great people when volunteering, and there’s such great pride in making a difference and being involved.”
Wherever art resides, community will endure. Artists express themselves to connect with, and ultimately help themselves, by helping others. Great struggle transforms into intense beauty as it emerges from the soul into the world.
“The arts, and public art in particular, improves quality of life because it can make you experience the city in different ways, challenge you, start conversations (Belier Rouge, the Red Ram, is a great example of this!) strengthen community pride and the economy. It creates a sense of place, and a study by the Knight Foundation found it ranked higher than education, safety and the local economy as a ‘driver of attachment.’ Finally, much like Ferndale, public art is open to everyone.”
Ripe with a diversity of talent and perspective, Willcock and the DDA continue to ensure that programs, platforms, and potential be utilized to interconnect the Ferndale community with the strength and beauty in art and its many forms. From Art Town, the DDA’s public art initiative that features sculptures, murals, and art benches, to the collaboration with the Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce and Ferndale Schools’ “Artists in You” project, there is an oasis of Ferndalians who have found happiness through expression along the way.
“The best thing about the Funky Ferndale Art Fair and DIY Street Fair is that they are two uniquely different art fairs that happen in the same weekend in our Downtown! Although considered a more “traditional” type of art fair, FFAF puts a decidedly Ferndale twist on it with the eclectic mix of art that challenges the mind, sparks the imagination and invites a reaction. Plus they always incorporate youth arts, charity, public art and Downtown Ferndale into the mix. DIY is amazing for so many reasons, including that it was conceived for Downtown Ferndale by Ferndalians for Ferndalians! Local bands, brews and art. What’s not to love?!”
Let us all take a lesson from Cindy Willcock and engage our community, openly express ourselves, and discover happiness helping others.
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