I grew up with an escape plan. Montgomery didn’t have anything to offer me, and I was so adamant about leaving that I became fixated on the escape without truly thinking about what I wanted to do when I got out. Sounds a little bit like prison doesn’t it? For those of you who grew up here, I’m sure you either felt this sentiment yourself or knew some friends that did, and you’ll agree that this was common consensus for many of Montgomery’s youth for quite some time. Even now it may be common for some.
For those of you that feel this way I have two questions: If all the bright young people (your friends) didn’t choose to leave, would Montgomery be a bad place to live? If you are filled with malcontent, have you ever tried to do anything about it?
I moved back to Montgomery two years ago. Soon after, I had lunch with Deputy Mayor Jeff Downes to discuss a dream I’ve had for quite some time now. I said:
“About 4 years ago, while home for Thanksgiving break, I noticed that all of my high school friends had dispersed throughout the country in pursuit of their careers and their passions. I said to them, ‘Everyone is growing up and excelling in their respective interests. What if while we all continue to grow, we make a commitment from time to time to bring the efforts of the individuals back to the group? This way, we can see how to make a sum greater than its parts. We should give back to a city that, for better or worse, we owe for making us who we are through the experiences we shared here in our childhood.’”
I was there to ask for the City’s help. We would need a space for collaboration, and I knew the City owned many properties that were vacant with no immediate plans. When I asked Mr. Downes if we could use one of said buildings, he expressed that while he didn’t understand exactly what our efforts would do, the City understands the importance of making Montgomery not only a place attractive to the young people that grow up here, but also enticing to those that may move here. If we could find or create an organization to be the governing body over this facility, the City might be able to grant or lease us a space on a temporary basis.
Imagine my excitement. I thought to myself: “Could it really be that easy? With just the slightest initiative taken, I have gained the city’s approval! Now, off to find the right organization!”
Well … I may have gotten ahead of myself. After seeking out organizations, I quickly realized that in these tight times, existing arts and cultural organizations were hesitant to take on any new endeavors — especially those that have some cost associated to them. Not to mention that when I gave my pitch, there were several times that the particular organization’s representative turned their head sideways in confusion (a reaction that maybe you are also having at this point). I began taking steps to form our own organization and Helicity Montgomery was born.
Helicity Montgomery is a non-profit organization founded by a local Montgomerian who was tired of all the complaining about there not being enough to do for young people in the city. We host an internship program that invites college students from all the local higher learning institutions to take ownership of their city by getting involved in making positive change happen. Our mission is to be a catalyst for the cultural and social development of Montgomery through the arts. While there are many great things about our city, in many cases, efforts have remained disjointed and isolated. It’s time to shed the atmosphere of competition and realize that working together in concert will prove far more successful for both the individual and the group.
We celebrate the creativity that lives in all of you. Montgomery is our playground and it can be yours too. WAKE UP MONTGOMERY! Get out and make this city what you want it to be! For more information email email@example.com or just Google Helicity (ok, well, Google Helicity Montgomery).
Johnny Veres is the founder and current Executive Director of Helicity Montgomery, and works at 2WR as an intern architect and project manager.