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Three Main Street America Staff members standing in front of a mural in Marion, Iowa.

Marion, Iowa © Tasha Sams

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We work in collaboration with thousands of local partners and grassroots leaders across the nation who share our commitment to advancing shared prosperity, creating resilient economies, and improving quality of life.

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Two community members in Emporia Kansas pose with a sign saying "I'm a Main Streeter"

Emporia, Kansas © Emporia Main Street

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Made up of small towns, mid-sized communities, and urban commercial districts, the thousands of organizations, individuals, volunteers, and local leaders that make up Main Street America™ represent the broad diversity that makes this country so unique.

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Dionne Baux and MSA partner working in Bronzeville, Chicago.

Chicago, Illinois © Main Street America

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People riding e-scooters in Waterloo, Iowa

Waterloo, Iowa © Main Street Waterloo

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Your one-stop-shop for all the latest stories, news, events, and opportunities – including grants and funding programs – across Main Street.

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Woman and girl at a festival booth in Kendall Whittier, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Kendall Whittier — Tulsa, Oklahoma © Kendall Whittier Main Street

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Three Main Street America Staff members standing in front of a mural in Marion, Iowa.

Marion, Iowa © Tasha Sams

About

We work in collaboration with thousands of local partners and grassroots leaders across the nation who share our commitment to advancing shared prosperity, creating resilient economies, and improving quality of life.

Overview Who We Are How We Work Partner Collaborations Our Supporters Our Team Job Opportunities Contact Us
Two community members in Emporia Kansas pose with a sign saying "I'm a Main Streeter"

Emporia, Kansas © Emporia Main Street

Our Network

Made up of small towns, mid-sized communities, and urban commercial districts, the thousands of organizations, individuals, volunteers, and local leaders that make up Main Street America™ represent the broad diversity that makes this country so unique.

Overview Coordinating Programs Main Street Communities Collective Impact Awards & Recognition Community Evaluation Framework Join the Movement
Dionne Baux and MSA partner working in Bronzeville, Chicago.

Chicago, Illinois © Main Street America

Resources

Looking for strategies and tools to support you in your work? Delve into the Main Street Resource Center and explore a wide range of resources including our extensive Knowledge Hub, professional development opportunities, field service offerings, advocacy support, and more!

Overview Knowledge Hub Field Services Government Relations Main Street Now Conference Main Street America Institute Small Business Support Allied Member Services The Point Members Area
People riding e-scooters in Waterloo, Iowa

Waterloo, Iowa © Main Street Waterloo

The Latest

Your one-stop-shop for all the latest stories, news, events, and opportunities – including grants and funding programs – across Main Street.

Overview News & Stories Events & Opportunities Subscribe
Woman and girl at a festival booth in Kendall Whittier, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Kendall Whittier — Tulsa, Oklahoma © Kendall Whittier Main Street

Get Involved

Join us in our work to advance shared prosperity, create strong economies, and improve quality of life in downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts.

Overview Join Us Renew Your Membership Donate Partner With Us Job Opportunities

February 20, 2020 | Finding Your Place: How the Connecticut Annual Photo Display Brings Main Street to State Legislators | By: Christine Schilke, Marketing & Development Director, Connecticut Main Street Center |

LOB_Display_1_shorter.jpgThere is lots to celebrate and admire in Connecticut’s downtowns and Main Streets. CMSC’s photo exhibit demonstrates the variety and vibrancy of its member communities. (Photo credit: Connecticut Main Street Center)

How do you catch the eye of state legislators in a way that is both subtle yet overt, familiar yet fresh? At the Connecticut Main Street Center (CMSC), we do this through our Celebrating CT’s Main Streets annual photo exhibit at the Legislative Office Building (LOB). Here, the well-traveled concourse that connects the State’s Capitol with its administrative and committee offices is home to a rotating selection of exhibits from a variety of sectors and industries, including CMSC’s annual display of downtowns and Main Streets from the over 80 communities in our member network.

The State of Our Downtowns

LOB_Boards-Community_Visioning.jpg
CMSC has been participating in the photo displays for over a decade, bringing attention to our member communities each year for the first two weeks in February. As the statewide Main Street coordinating program, we take special care to bring attention to the wide variety of town and city centers found in Connecticut. From small, rural Main Streets to the bustling downtowns of our city centers, CMSC communities come in a range of sizes, each with their own unique attributes. Some are known for their arts & culture scenes, others for their culinary delights, while still others are known for their lively street festivals or quirky histories. Our photo display is a fun way to bring attention to their local characteristics, engaging a captive audience who may not otherwise know about the many noteworthy qualities they possess.

It's also a way to demonstrate the current state of these places to the legislators and other visitors who may not realize how far many of our communities have come. Unfortunately, just like many other places around the country, some of our downtowns still bear the weight of past stigmas – outdated misconceptions of being boring, unsafe or unchanged. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth! From large to small, Connecticut communities and CMSC members are undergoing transformation, breathing new life into their commercial districts, redeveloping historic mills and other buildings with housing and mixed-use development, adding transit and Complete Street components, and attracting visitors with lively amenities, street festivals, and public art.

From On-the-Ground to Up the Wall

Every Main Street program in the country can relate to this challenge of breaking down antiquated stereotypes and the importance of telling our Main Streets’ success stories, finding ways to convey the value that vibrant, walkable downtowns bring to communities, economically and socially.

LOB_Display_Setup_2_short.jpgCMSC’s staff work together to hang dozens of photos in the LOB concourse. (Photo credit: Connecticut Main Street Center)

CMSC’s photo display puts our collective heart on our sleeve, or on the wall, as it were. Here we celebrate the physical downtowns themselves – the architecturally significant buildings, historic streets and lush town greens – while also serving as vivid reminders of the many facets that go into cultivating a great downtown: placemaking, community engagement, housing, transit, and more. We strive to demonstrate these important activities, often shepherded by Main Street executive directors and municipal economic development and planning officials, as much as the places. After all, it’s our members undertaking the on-the-ground work in our communities that help make them so vibrant and engaging, as much as it is the place itself. While subtle, it’s also significant for legislators to see pictures of community members at charettes and planning meetings, so they understand our communities work best when they solicit and incorporate community feedback. It’s also important for them to be aware of the many variable, intangible ways our downtowns tie us together, from talking to neighbors on the street, to historic walking tours that link us to our past, to greening public spaces that help preserve our future.

Finding Your Place

With over 80 member communities, we have lots of downtowns and Main Streets to celebrate. In fact, we have so many photos that not all of them will fit on our designated wall space, as each year we add new photos to keep the display fresh and to acknowledge the constant progress made in our town centers.

LOB_Boards-Pratt_St_Hartford.jpgCMSC annually invites its members and others to view the photos when visiting the Capitol and encourages legislators to find their community among the dozens of photos. Many delight in seeing their community displayed, with a few enthusiastically sharing their find on social media, like CT State Representative Julio Concepcion. For many, it’s a source of pride to see their community represented at the LOB, especially some of our smaller communities or those located a distance away from the Capitol who typically don’t garner as much attention as the larger cities or closer suburbs.

Since many of the photo boards also feature our annual award winners, it’s also a chance to showcase best practices in downtown management and revitalization from around the state. From the local citizens who banded together to purchase and rehabilitate under-utilized buildings into community co-working space in Norfolk, to the many groups enlivening Hartford with dancing in the street and other placemaking activities, CMSC’s photo exhibit celebrates the places that enliven our state.

At the Connecticut Main Street Center, we’re proud of our downtowns, and we love to show off the great work being done by our members. Our annual legislative photo display is a way to celebrate their success while demonstrating the positive impact they have on the state and its residents. To us, their pictures are worth more than a thousand words; they’re worth our effort, every day.

About the Author

Christine Schilke serves as the Marketing & Development Director for the Connecticut Main Street Center, a small but mighty non-profit that champions downtowns and Main Streets all across the state. We provide education & technical assistance to more than 80 CMSC member communities statewide. Learn more our work and members at www.ctmainstreet.org.