This year, the Community Innovators Lab is launching the Portraits of Place Project. Community-based organizations, practitioners, and scholars who work in specific places understand best the complexity of the physical, social, and economic environments they are dedicated to improving.

With that local knowledge in mind, we are asking such organizations and individuals to use words, photos, video, and sounds to paint a portrait of the places they are committed to, and help outsiders understand the stories that make these places important.

How can you become involved in the Portraits of a Place Project? Email colabradio@mit.edu your ideas and initial story or set-up a phone call with CoLab media staff. We also ask that you submit a description of your project. Download the form with questions here. For tips on blogging, check out CoLab Radio’s guide for contributors.

CoLab will provide all project participants with:

• Collaborative and/or independent workshops at MIT, as well as other opportunities to get necessary training and technical support, to ‘paint your place portraits’

• A blog series about your place portraits on CoLab Radio

• An opportunity to network with a cohort of peers who are also chronicling their work through place portraits and who are facing similar issues in community development

• Ongoing support from someone with expertise in the medium(s) you use. For example, CoLab would provide the expertise of an experienced photographer for a project that relies on photography

• A final event and exhibition of all the stories at MIT in the Spring of 2011

The ‘Who’s on Broad?’ story project culminated in a public event on Broad Street. The exhibit featured photography by locals and digital stories about business owners and workers on Broad. Photo by Jonathan Kennedy.


For inspiration, please visit Colab Radio’s previous story series about place:

Boston: Who’s on Newbury Street? by Alexa Mills

Camden: Small Business Owners Keep a City Alive by Gayle Christiansen

Los Angeles: Collective Mapping on the LA River by John Arroyo

New Orleans: Who’s on Broad Street? by Aditi Mehta

CoLab sees that it’s easy to pass judgment on a place. Run-down houses probably mean mass-foreclosure. A bustling shopping street probably means financial wealth. A community garden probably signifies an engaged neighborhood. Someone who spends the day on a corner is probably homeless. For this project, CoLab is seeking story series that take a closer look than probably. CoLab knows that you have a more nuanced understanding of a place or a community than what its public image is.

The photo at the top of this page is of the Heartworks Community Forum in Biddeford, Maine. Nick Kaufmann took this photo in the summer of 2010.