COLLABORATION BEGINS WITH WALKING.
(2010). A series of projects, conversations and experiences by students from Brookings-Harbor High School and Jill R Baker. We begin with the idea that walking can be a creative action with the possibility of creating change in those places where we walk.
The geographer-philosopher, Henri Lefebvre wrote about the idea of the “production of space,” which says that we create the world we live in, and in turn, are created by the world we live in. Trevor Paglin writes, “In this view, space is not a container for human activities to take place within, but is actively ‘produced’ through human activity. The spaces humans produce, in turn, set powerful constraints upon subsequent activity.”
Brookings, Oregon is the southern most city on the Oregon coast, situated along Hwy 101, with no real city center or pedestrian areas other than intermittent sidewalks that make commuting on foot difficult, despite having such a short distance to go in a city that spans north south for only about 4 miles. By the time you reach the Oregon Coast Trail, off of Hwy 101, you are no longer in Brookings. Walking along 101 south of the bridge in Brookings is most often associated with homelessness, transience, or with the backpackers who emerge from the Coast Trail heading south to California. Commuting on foot in Brookings is rare, but many of those who do walk, from perhaps the Fred Meyer store, or the public school, to the Dairy Queen, or just out with friends, I have noticed, are high school students.
It is the students who seem to know the shortcuts, making paths of desire through fields along their routes, to one another's houses, down to beaches. In a town where second home owners, investment property owners, and retirees make up somewhere around 75% of the population, while nearly half of families with children live at or below poverty level, it is important to recognize the ways that young community members are cultural producers in their city.
By walking through a place, we not only experience that place, but help make that place, change that place or give it new meaning. Certeau wrote that walkers are “practitioners of the city.” A Collaboration That Begins with Walking starts with the idea that walking can be a creative action and that our actions in places can change and make those places. Walking maps the city as we experience it, makes paths and meaning simultaneously, elicits encounters and relations, and reflects and remakes the cultural context from which it occurs.