The first half of my internship with the Fayette County Cultural Trust has been enjoyable. It offers me a different type of work compared to my other projects. I’m embedded within the community with the Trust, researching and planning for real-life scenarios that will eventually impact peoples’ lives. Instead of looking at how the past influences the present with my other Appalachian work, I’m looking at how the present will affect the future. It’s a powerful feeling—one I hold with caution and vigilance.
As a continuation of my previous work with the Appalachian Teaching Project, I’m slowly expanding the asset map into Uniontown. The only downside from my current data gathering is that I’ve only been to Uniontown once. While there, I spoke to a minimal number of people, meaning that the current data points are not from the community members. I have an extensive collection of points, and I believe they will be helpful to next semester’s group to at least serve as points of reference for what is actually in the town. I expect it to save them some time linking one asset to the next.
In addition to expanding the asset map, I’ve spent time surveying to gauge peoples’ various uses of the Great Allegheny Passage. The survey was a lodging and restaurant questionnaire where I was trying to see the types of facilities and businesses people were most likely to use, which would enable Connellsville developers to tailor their endeavors to the wants of the people. This survey generated 228 responses, and most of the participants utilized a free-response section at the end to report things they would like to see on the trail. My intern bosses were happy with the turnout.
Another project deals with the Trust’s planning of a Connellsville University Center. This space will reflect a multitude of interests—it’s planned to be a coworking space, educative expansion, business incubator, vertical greenhouse, and rental space. The other interns and I have been pricing out internal items, examining solar energy capabilities, and dissecting general communal interest in this type of center.
I visited Connellsville once again with Gabby over spring break. Here, our central goal was to interview as many community members, businesses, and workers as we could and ask the central question: “What does Connellsville need?” This question was to help us indirectly gauge interest in the central facility. Community input varied, and we didn’t harshly frame our questioning. Some people were interested in new transportation services, while others focused on pastime opportunities for the area’s children. While walking the streets, it became impossible not to notice the numerous storefronts with nothing filling them. Although they meet the eye and mind with pessimism, perhaps a university center space would better enable residents to fill the blank spaces eventually.
This week, I am emailing different people who have reached out to various faculty members or Michael and Dan at the FCCT, who have expressed interest in our overall project. I met with Bryan about the conversations I plan on having with these individuals, and my talk with him was one of the most helpful I’ve had in a while. My conversation with him touched on fundraising tactics, meeting people strategically, and a format of discussion that concludes with a specific call to action. I am nervous about conducting these but equally excited to practice dialogue with important people.