A Project for Students and Citizens

Elba: Week Five

In Elba on July 5, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Alexis Sankey is living democracy in Elba, Alabama.  Originally from Highland Home, she is a sophomore majoring in psychology at Auburn University. Living Democracy is a yearlong collaboration between students and citizens on issues that matter to local communities.

In JumpstART this week we talked about texture and worked on some tissue paper collages and sculptures. The kids made various animals. Anything you can think of, they made it. We had everything from sharks to unicorns! It got really messy, but it was well worth it in the end to see that everyone was enjoying themselves. The class got a visit from two of my professors directing Living Democracy, Mark Wilson and Nan Fairley, and we had them get a little dirty too. It was a really fun day for all of us. The next exciting part of JumpstART is coming soon, the art show set for July 26. We’ll be featuring each child’s best piece for all to see.  I also continue to meet local artists.

Beyond art, I attended an Elba City Council meeting where I able to sit in on the decision-making process and hear about issues that are facing the community. Very often, we don’t realize that even the little things that we see every day are actually a part of the democratic process. It made me realize that there are numerous opportunities to get your voice heard.

There are a number of ways that information is conveyed in Elba. Formally, they talk to their local leaders. The mayor, city council members, and other officials would be the most obvious people to hear citizen concerns. Typically, these concerns are addressed at city council meetings and other official venues.

Unofficially, there are many other venues for civic conversations.  One primary place to convey information and issues is actually in the local churches. The churches seem to be one of the most important places to talk about events or problems in the area. Another place to convey info is actually walking right over to your neighbor’s house. Elba is such a connected town. If you want people in the area to know something, what better way than to approach them directly? Elba is a place where you can actually know your neighbor and feel comfortable talking to them, no matter the time or place. That is an important component that makes life in Elba so unique. They also communicate through civic organizations that deal with specific issues and work on certain projects.

One of the biggest ways, other than word of mouth, that I’ve seen information transmitted is through the local newspaper, the Elba Clipper. Almost everyone in Elba regularly reads the newspaper. They use it to keep up with upcoming events, as well as any issues that could have arisen. The Elba Clipper keeps the citizens informed in a huge way because if they aren’t able to make it to a city council meeting or they haven’t had time to talk to their neighbors, they have it all in a compact piece of paper dropped right at their door. Nobody is able to say that they didn’t have access to certain information because it’s all in the paper.

The newspaper was actually one of the biggest ways that my project, JumpstART, was able to gain so much interest. Almost every parent that I talked to told me that they heard of the art program through the newspaper. I had lots of flyers that I passed around and talked to lots of people to get the word out about the program. However, nothing reaches the citizens in Elba like the Elba Clipper. Through the newspaper, I was actually able to gain interest from some people outside of Elba from the surrounding towns and cities. They actually make a small commute to come to JumpstART. I know that when I want the public to be aware of any other event, like the upcoming art show on July 26, I will definitely hope to promote it in the pages of the Elba Clipper. 


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