Moss Point, MS
Moss Point Studio Events
The Gulf Coast Community Design Studio received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, NEA, to build on its role in Moss Point as an invited, objective advisor to the redevelopment process, as well as on its experience in community participation and planning in East Biloxi, to develop an innovative approach to community engagement. We see community engagement as a process rather than an event, and are holding a series of exhibits, workshops, and staffed outreach hours to take place in a community space in downtown Moss Point, Mississippi. Much like a community arts center, this space would be publicly accessible; belong to the community; and be a clearinghouse for information, ideas, and activities related to the redevelopment of Moss Point specifically, and community design (architecture, planning, landscape architecture, design) more broadly.
In recent years, community design charrettes have taken the place of public meetings in an effort by planning professionals to create more meaningful modes of public engagement in planning and urban design. Unlike public hearings, where individuals can only react to presented options, charrettes allow participants to develop a voice in the process by taking a hands-on approach. This mode of involvement further allows individuals who participate to become more informed about design and planning, thus developing capacity in the community.
In other ways, however, charrettes fail to address some of the key challenges to community involvement. Their scheduling often does not accommodate those individuals with less flexibility in their work hours or with few childcare options, excluding many of the same individuals unable to participate in traditional hearings. Furthermore, the short time frame of a charrette limits its capacity to help a community address complex problems. Entrenched issues such as racial and economic segregation, environmental neglect, energy waste, infrastructure disinvestment, and a discouraged or disenfranchised citizenry require a community to deal with value conflicts and are too complex to be resolved in a matter of hours. As a result, charrettes remain a proxy for meaningful public participation, one that is an improvement on traditional methods, but that still lacks the capacity to address complexity and allow for traditionally underrepresented groups to be heard.
Unlike voting, community participation is not a one-time event. It is a process by which individuals actively work to bridge the gap between what their communities are and what they want their communities to be. To address this need, we have created a long-term, ongoing community engagement process to address the planning and community design needs of the City of Moss Point, Mississippi.