On New Year’s Eve I attended a gala at Open Square in Holyoke MA. It was sponsored by an organization called CRUSH – Citizens for the Revitalization and Urban Success of Holyoke. It was fun – I love dressing up and dancing, and got to do both. I met great people, spent time with new friends, and got a midnight smooch. All in all a great success.
But an interesting theme emerged during the evening. It brought to mind something I’d studied in grad school: Standpoint Theory.
Crudely described, Standpoint Theory states that we all stand on, say, a point. From my point I observe and describe the world. From your point you observe and describe the world. When we talk and combine our perspectives we come away with something that is more objective than what we could have described individually.
My standpoint on New Year’s Eve? That of a deeply invested and committed resident of Hartford visiting Holyoke, a city in which I have a significant interest.
The standpoint of many of the folks with whom I had conversations? Those of deeply invested and committed residents of Holyoke who are sincere in their desire to revitalize a fascinating and historic industrial city.
The first indication of the emerging theme was when a person expressed complete and utter shock that I would leave Hartford to spend New Year’s Eve in Holyoke. Why? Because Hartford is way cooler than Holyoke. It has cooler clubs, cooler restaurants, more better cooler people…
I disagree. I’ve been to some great places and amazing homes in Holyoke (architecture and history fiends should visit just to check out the canals), and I’ve met truly wonderful people: Denis, Marjie, Maggie, VanDog and many others.
And as all readers of this blog know, when you start to meet a place’s people, you start to feel its spirit.
“Hartford is great,” said one person, “Holyoke would love to be like Hartford one day.”
Said another: “Have you ever been to Providence? Hartford is like Providence…”
I think my jaw hit the floor when I heard that. Don’t leaders around here always wish that Hartford was like Providence?
One of the people I was speaking with helped me with my jaw and asked about my reaction.
“Did you say Providence?”
“Hartford’s problem,” he said, “is marketing. It’s a great cosmopolitan city.”
Great. Cosmopolitan. City.
So let’s see what happens when we combine the standpoints of the various folks with whom I conversed: Hartford has much to recommend it. Hartford is diverse and sophisticated. Hartford is a destination. Hartford is a city to emulate.
Could Hartford already be the city it wants to be?