Looking for something fun and meaningful to do this holiday season, either on your own, with your family or with a group?
Try checking out the interactive exhibit Put the i into Civic currently “wintering” at Central Library.
Created by local artist Linda Hesh, the project, done in collaboration with Arlington Public Art, asks each of us to consider “what Civic means to you.”
“What do you expect from your government? What do you appreciate? Civic Expectations or Treasures? What might be your contribution, your Civic Duty or Civic Pleasure?”
With each installation, Hesh photographs citizens standing in for the missing “i” and records their statements about the meaning of civic life:
The result is a diverse portrait of the citizens of Arlington whose pictures and statements are collected and posted at reimaginecivic.com. For more on our plans to promote this exhibit, watch this space.
The concept is simple — the meaning is anything but.
Being somewhat of a word nerd, I looked up the origin of civic and found that the word’s original use was in “civic garland, crown, etc., translating Latin corona civica, denoting a garland of oak leaves and acorns given in ancient Rome to a person who saved a fellow citizen’s life.”
That seems about right. We live in community and we need and depend upon one another for our health, our safety and our prosperity. From the services the government provides to keep us cared for, to the individual acts of kindness each of us dispenses each day, we demonstrate empathy and gratitude for what each of us brings to community life.
Putting others before ourselves is a big ask and not easy to do. And yet, our well-being demands that we do so. Several years ago, sociologist Robert Putnam bemoaned the diminution of social capital – the ties that bind us – in his classic, “Bowling Alone.” From data and interviews conducted over a quarter century, Putnam documented reductions in community engagement (voting, family dinners, singing in choral groups) that have led to an overall “dissing” of community life resulting in disaffection, disenfranchisement and disappointment. In “Better Together,” Putnam described the potential for rebooting engagement and, not surprisingly, called out the pivotal role of the public library in rejuvenating communities.
Which brings me back to why the “wintering” of Put the i in Civic at Central Library is particularly apt.
I can think of no better place than this place, which welcomes and protects all comers of all ages, all beliefs, all experiences, all countries of origin. All day and every day. At the heart of every vibrant community is a strong and dynamic public library. The staff and I at Arlington Public Library don’t take that for granted, and neither should you.
And for the record, there are two “i”s in Civic. Which means You and Me. Together.
And while you’re at it? Put the “i” in Arlington and help make us all wiser, healthier and happier.
From all of us to all of you, thank you for your support in making this the best public library anywhere – and best wishes for a bright new year.