Montrose, CO — The City of Montrose in partnership with the Hispanic Affairs Project invites the public to attend the opening of the Tortilla Flats Neighborhood Photovoice Project; a collection of photographs produced by the residents living in the Tortilla Flats neighborhood.
A community exhibit and reception will be held on December 4 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Montrose Library located at 320 South Second Street in Montrose.
Photovoice is a widely used process in which people use photographs and words to capture aspects of their environment and life experiences and share them with the public and local officials to spur positive change in their community. The Tortilla Flats area, self-identified by its residents, is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Montrose.
Some say “a picture is worth a thousand words” and the Photovoice method allows individuals to share their life experiences in a unique manner that couldn’t be conveyed in other ways. The project was funded through a grant from The Colorado Health Foundation.
"The City of Montrose looks forward to experiencing the Photovoice Project," said Kendall Cramer, the City of Montrose grant coordinator. "The purpose of our engagement efforts, funded through a grant from the Colorado Health Foundation, is to identify and pursue initiatives that will better serve residents residing in the Tortilla Flats neighborhood."
The city launched the “Bridging the Gap” project focused on cultivating communication around community projects and impacted neighborhoods as part of the construction of the Connect River Trail Project. The Hispanic Affairs Project (HAP) partnered with the city and helped organize a series of community meetings with Tortilla Flats residents beginning in June 2018 to provide updates and solicit feedback on the Connect River Trail Project, La Raza Park improvements, and housing repair and neighborhood improvement projects.
Many residents showed up to these events, but the city received feedback that the conversations seemed structured to provide information on projects the city felt were important and that there was a missed opportunity to learn from residents regarding their preferences about the future of their community. It was clear that residents were interested in being part of something that would improve their neighborhood. HAP came up with the idea of using Photovoice to engage with residents and hear about their experiences in the neighborhood.
Participants in the project live in the Tortilla Flats neighborhood and gathered for a series of meetings to discuss topics they wanted to photograph.
Participants were asked: When you think of your neighborhood, what is important to you?
Participants had two weeks to take photos using cell phones, personal cameras or disposable film cameras. Photographs from ten community members are included in the exhibit. Participants selected photographs that best represented the group’s important topics and collectively wrote narrative descriptions for each photograph. This was a collective process with full input and participation from the project participants.
“This project has really shown us that community members do seek opportunities to share their experiences and needs," said Karen Sherman-Perez, civic engagement and development coordinator for Hispanic Affairs Project. "This effort has allowed Tortilla Flats residents to bring up issues that are important to them and to do so in a safe space and in a positive way. The project has also provided an opportunity to not only cultivate relationships within the neighborhood and the community—but also to better understand the rich history and values present in our community, while at the same time recognizing that there are key things that are lacking that should be looked at.”