Virtual Street Corners
Good Vibrations has been open at Coolidge Corner in Brookline since early 2006–our first store outside the San Francisco Bay Area. In the years we’ve been there we have reached out to the community, won Best of Boston and other local awards, and we San Francisco-based GV staff have enjoyed learning about “the other Bay Area,” one of the US’s oldest and most historically rich cities, where an astonishingly large percentage of all the college students in the country hang out during the school year.
The Boston environs are diverse and its history isn’t always well-known even to all who live there. This summer we were contacted by an artist whose large-scale project Virtual Street Corners seeks to teach two disparate neighborhoods more about each other–and we’re honored to have become a part of this fascinating (and fundamentally anthropological and urbanist) work.
Virtual Street Corners connects two Boston-area communities: Brookline is an affluent town (John F. Kennedy was born there) which currently has a strong Jewish community and several small colleges (plus it’s near Boston University, one of the city’s larger universities). It shares a town line with Roxbury, a significantly African-American Boston neighborhood that has been called “the heart of Black culture in Boston.” Roxbury and Boston are neighbors that have grown significantly apart in some ways, especially demographically — almost 82% of Brookline residents are white (of whom 35% are Jewish), with about 6.25% Black or Hispanic/Latino, while Roxbury is 4% (non-Hispanic) white and 87% Black or Hispanic/Latino. (These numbers are from Wikipedia and are mostly based on the 2000 census, FYI.)
As artist/convener John Ewing’s website explains his project:
“Coolidge Corner and Dudley Square are just 2.4 miles apart – A 15 minute ride on the 66 bus. Yet few from each neighborhood appear to visit the other. Why?
“The Virtual Street Corners project attempts to bridge gaps and break down stereotypes by exploring the commonalities, differences, and shared issues between the two communities.
“From June 8-30th the two neighborhoods will be linked through a live video portal with ends at A Nubian Notion and Brookline Booksmith. In addition to spontaneous conversations between passers-by, there will be programmed discussions among artists, politicians, educators, activists, students etc. from each community. Local journalists will walk the neighborhood beat and give daily reports about what is happening in each place.”
Though June is past, many of these discussions between the two communities live on thanks to the Web. Our Good Vibrations Brookline store manager Colleen Dinn spoke to the Virtual Street Corners team; here’s her interview (thanks for representing, Colleen!):
We’re proud to have been able to participate in this amazing and innovative outreach project and hope it was equally useful and intriguing to both commuities!