Community commitment for DPA impressive to visiting architects
Posted: Friday, March 5, 2010 9:05 pm
By GLENDA CAUDLE
Special Features Editor
If you’re expecting to see some interesting stuff, forget that. Instead, be prepared to feast each human sense.
If you’re anticipating a glimpse of history, forget that. Instead, get ready to explore not only yesterday, but today and tomorrow and who knows what in the world else.
If you’re dismissing it as run-of-the-mill recycled collectibles, forget that. Instead, gear up for experiences you haven’t even gotten around to imagining yet.
If you’re thinking Discovery Park of America is worth getting excited about, however, hold on to that thought. And tell everyone you know.
The 50-acre multi-million dollar education-entertainment-tourism complex planned for a site just across Everett Boulevard from Second Baptist Church and bordered on the far side by the proposed I-69 superhighway is moving forward again.
A new team of architects, exhibit planners, landscape designers and economic stewardship representatives was introduced recently to representatives of the volunteer committees that have been working on the local project being underwritten by the Robert E. and Jenny D. Kirkland Foundation for more than two years.
Louis Sirianni and Brad Nederhoff from Verner Johnson architectural firm in Boston, Ritchie Smith and Lissa Thompson of Ritchie Smith Associates in Memphis and Robert Safin of TLM civil engineering firm in Jackson were in Union City a week ago to showcase initial plans for the grounds and the overall layout of DPA in Phase I of the project. On Thursday, Sirianni and Nederhoff returned, along with Curt Cederquist of Maltbie-Museum Management/Exhibits of New Jersey; Thinc-Exhibit Design representatives Tom Hennes, Madeline Chinnici and Julie Chung; and Elaine Carmichael of Economic Stewardship Inc. The team brought with them some preliminary mock-ups of displays to share with members of the volunteer committees meeting at the Obion County Public Library.
While those attending are getting a look at a general preliminary layout plan for the interior of the triple-story DPA museum centerpiece Discovery Center, the architects stress they are not ready to present their first actual concept at this point. That will most likely come in April.
Neither are the exhibit planners prepared to show committee members specifically how they will be showcasing their plans and dreams. But they are interested in making sure they have heard the views of those committees in all the detail the members can share at this point. And they are determined to help the local volunteers explore innovative ways to accomplish their goals, including envisioning ways to integrate the committees’ ideas within the venue.
The Thinc design team brought with them a “consultant visit report” for DPA. It details, for each committee, the scope of the group’s work, the exhibit ideas previously discussed, the assets available, the stories that will help shape the exhibits, ideas and questions to explore.
In addition, the report includes observations made by the exhibit design team and impressions of the area and its people revealed in recent interaction with the residents of this community.
“The commitment and enthusiasm we encountered was impressive; it will serve as a strong motivating force that will not only make the new institution distinct, but also particularly suited to its users,” the report says of the initial meetings with the committee volunteers Jan. 25-27.
In a subsequent paragraph, the design team reveals insights area residents may not have been aware of themselves: “… There is an enormous amount of pride and interest in the region and its history; indeed, this is an excellent point of departure. Over and over again, members spoke of what they had learned about western Tennessee and their own history in the process of developing some of their preliminary ideas. Others spoke of a loss they feared their children might experience — the loss of valuable parts of their history that have not been adequately recorded or documented. As such, they see the Discovery Center as a place where their heritage can be inscribed. But they also see it (as does the DPA Executive Committee) as something else: a window onto the wider world.”
The report details what Discovery Center aspires to do and to be:
• “An inspiration to other communities … if you can do it here, you can do it elsewhere”
• (To let children, some of whom never move far beyond this community) “… see more than they’d normally see”
• “The stimulus for youth to fulfill their potential and expand their knowledge”
• “Motivate people to do better”
• “Provide a window into a bigger world”
• Provide “entertaining education”
• “Integrate subjects, with one flowing into another”
The information paper further reveals details the team observed about the local community, including the fact that people have deep roots and many have chosen to stay here, although many young people do leave for larger cities. In addition, the population has remained fairly stable and this is OK with some people, but others are concerned about a lack of growth. This is, the report says, basically a slice of rural America and people are traditionally “of the land.” There is a “church culture” here, with many Christian denominations and few Muslims and only traces of what was once a small merchant Jewish community. There is a strong work ethic with an equally strong sense of community and civic responsibility and it is a place of “give back,” where people pitch in to help because they value the life and lifestyle they enjoy. There is a high proportion of entrepreneurial success emerging from children educated in a public school setting. There is also a big disparity between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” There is also a love of the land, with even young children exploring the link of hunting and fishing to the outdoors.
In a wrap-up of observable characteristics, the report points out the “unfair advantages” Discovery Center will enjoy. In this instance, unfair advantages focuses attention on the assets an institution has that enable it to do things or become things that no other can. Some of the community’s key “unfair advantages” include:
• Located at the “center” of the United States
• Historic juncture of two of the nation’s east-west and north-south railroads
• Mason-Dixon line is five miles away
• No. 1 agricultural county in Tennessee
• Active “can-do” community willing to participate in making a strong quality of life for its members
• Reelfoot Lake a source of recreation and hunting and fishing tourism
• Expanded airport
• World War II air base where military pilots learned to fly
• Obion County Public Library
• Monument to the Unknown Confederate Soldier and a Confederate soldier cemetery
The report’s conclusions are both flattering, encouraging and energizing for volunteers who have invested considerable time, interest and hard work in the venture already.
“The Thinc/Maltbie exhibition team arrived in western Tennessee eager to come to know the people and place of Union City,” the team says in closing. “What we encountered was a sense of excitement and energy that is rare in more established institutions. The Obion County community constitutes an asset of inestimable worth, and its high aspirations for the Discovery Park of America — and the Discovery Center in particular — set the measure of our success going forward. … We are honored to have a role in the creation of the Discovery Center and look forward to the day when it first opens its doors.”
And so do we.
Mrs.Caudle may be contacted at glenda firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 3.5.10
Discovery Park of America
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