What makes a neighborhood?
– VOL. 2
How do you build a neighborhood? How do you take what is unique and indispensable about the place where you live and make it your own?
A good place to start is by surrounding yourself with a community that supports you as you explore and develop your values and interests. Then, take stock of those very values and interests and share them right back with your neighbors and neighborhood.
Mony Nation shows off her work at “Kenya: From Both Sides of the Glass,” her first photography exhibit hosted at Venn Cowork in July.
Take Mony Nation, a Neighbor living in Venn’s Bushwick community. When the pandemic grounded over three-fourths of all commercial air travel, the full-time flight attendant suddenly found herself with a lot of time on her hands. Rather than panic, she rekindled her dormant love of photography, enrolled in a virtual MFA program, and booked an ambitious trip to East Africa, which would become the subject of her first major portfolio.
Her partner for the journey? The roommate she met while living in Venn’s community.
This summer, as she feverishly completes her degree, Nation and her fellow Venn Neighbors transformed the Venn coworking space into an art gallery. In July, it will host “Kenya: From Both Sides of the Glass,” Nation’s first exhibit as a photographer.
“It was a unique opportunity to share this whole experience as a member of the community, and then be able to showcase my work afterwards,”says Nation.
Making That In-Person Connection
What she calls ‘unique opportunities’ are so much more than just notifications and updates on the Venn app— though that is a good place to start. “What I love about the Venn platform is that it is unlike other social media,” says Arie Cutler, a Venn community manager in Kansas City.
“Most social media sites want you endlessly scrolling and using that messaging platform. But the whole point of the Venn app is to get you off of it.”
“I think that’s something that’s pretty special,” adds Cutler.
Creating and facilitating those special connections that pull our eyes away from our screens and towards our neighbors is essential to Venn’s mission. It also speaks to one of the company’s core tenets: It’s not enough to simply experience the unique flavor of a neighborhood. You have to add to it, build on it, and invest in it and that only happens through inspiration and participation.
Neighbors in Bushwick gather at Venn’s all-day cafe for a dance performance co-hosted with CreateART, a local arts advocacy group.
That is what happened in Shapira, the Tel Aviv neighborhood where— during the darkest days of the pandemic— a Venn Neighbor and community organizer put together and shared a book full of recipes sourced from her neighbors and facilitated virtual cooking classes.
It is what is happening in Bushwick, where Venn hosts events inside bodegas to bring business and attention to these hard-hit but vital Brooklyn institutions.
And it will be happening in the Midtown neighborhood of Kansas City starting in the fall, when professionals in Venn’s community will begin mentoring neighborhood youth to pursue their passions— whether it is the arts, wellness or entrepreneurship.
So how do you build a neighborhood? Communication, participation, and connection— the same principles on which Venn was founded.
“There is a culture at Venn of being proactive,” says Jessica Prestia, the Venn community manager in Bushwick who this year helped Mony Nation get that much closer to her dream of being a professional photographer. “Whatever it is you want to share, whether it’s a little information about yourself or your life’s passion, we’re here to provide whatever you need to make it happen.”
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