By Karen Suarez
During the three and a half years of CCI’s Accelerating Investments for Healthy Communities (AIHC) initiative, six pioneering health systems—Boston Medical Center, Bon Secours Mercy Health, CommonSpirit (formerly Dignity Health), Kaiser Permanente, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and UPMC Health Plan—deployed $15.4 million of loans and grants for affordable housing in their cities. In San Bernardino, California, AIHC helped make possible a creative partnership between CommonSpirit, the Neighborhood Association Council, Uplift San Bernardino, and the Arts Connection that uses the arts to engage community members in envisioning San Bernardino’s future.
Karen Suarez, Director of Uplift San Bernardino, writes about what this unique partnership looks like for residents and community organizers.
Crafting Shared Priorities Through Arts Engagement in San Bernardino
Through the support of CommonSpirit and Accelerating Investments for Healthy Communities, Uplift San Bernardino has partnered with Arts Connection and the San Bernardino Neighborhood Associations to create a long-term project called Blocks of Care. Blocks of Care and related projects and events invite creative expression from residents to see, shape, and advocate for themselves and the places they want to see better cared for in neighborhoods across the city.
In partnership with a dozen artists, activities include in-person and online engagement to collectively write a love letter to the City of San Bernardino. Interested persons can add their responses by following #mylovesanbernardino on social media. As it gets rolling, a web page will house the in-person archive and will weave together all the responses we receive. Activities will offer insight and guide future conversations with residents to tell the story of what it means to live in San Bernardino. These invaluable insights from our residents give us an opportunity to learn more about their needs, hopes, and desires for a better future. This includes providing insight into what “home” means to our residents and fostering an enabling environment for community development that is informed by residents and the art they make.
Additionally, our collective work with the local Neighborhood Associations Council has enhanced and strengthened their ability to do outreach in the community. They prioritized neighborhoods where we need the most investment, reactivating four neighborhood associations and supporting three more. The Council has also participated in several community events like the SB Food Fest, San Bernardino Art Walk, and National Night Out.
Blocks of Care was born out of a desire to infuse the arts to connect residents to each other and their community, and we are grateful for the investments that have allowed us to connect to each other through the arts. This project gives us space to tell our story while increasing our understanding of how we can continue to equitably advance inclusive economic and community development.