03 Jul Meet Emerging City Champions: Clio and Marcus
A year after launching projects to make their cities more engaged, happy and beautiful, find out what these young urban innovators have accomplished, what they’ve learned and where they’re going next.
by Emma Jones, Jonathan von Ofenheim
State College, Pennsylvania – Halloween Bus Dress Up
Meet the champ:
Clio Andris is the Founder and Director of the Penn State Friendly Cities Lab, as well as an assistant professor at Pennsylvania State University. She’s most curious about how social relationships create connections inside and across cities.
How she’s innovating:
People dress up for Halloween, so why don’t buses? Funny question, maybe. But for Clio Andris, it was the start of a serious innovation.
She organized the Halloween Bus Dress Up event, decorating four small vans specifically for elderly and disabled people to ride in style on October 31.
“Dressing up the buses for Halloween was big news here,” says Andris, describing the shark, taco and witch-themed buses on State College’s small main streets.
Andris designed the project to highlight State College’s public transportation efforts, aimed at being a friendly means of connecting community members with the local transit authority: “The goal of the project was to bring more attention to public transportation,” she says. “It was my first civic project so I learned a lot about the decisions that you have to make.”
Andris plans to bring the Halloween buses back next year: “I do want to do it again next Halloween,” she says. “I want people to see how to do this and that they can bring more attention to their own transportation in their own towns and stuff, because this was a really great way to do it.”
A big part of inspiring other communities, she feels, is making her learning open-source.
“One of the impacts we would like to have is release a toolkit for other cities that want to do this,” says Andris. “We can release some of the plans for how to make a 15 foot halloween costume, because unsurprisingly, there’s nothing about that on the internet.”
Grand Forks, North Dakota – “Rediscovering” University Park
Meet the champ:
Marcus Wax is the general manager at Yellow Dart Industries, a contracting startup founded by one of his classmates. Since his undergraduate degree, Wax’s interest has been sparked by the built environment. By the end of the degree, he honed in on those interests and completed a thesis on zoning policy.
How he’s innovating:
Wax’s project stemmed from a disappointing experience during his final days as an undergraduate student at the University of North Dakota.
“When I was a senior, they ended up hiring a new Vice President of student affairs who was very anti-party, anti-alcohol,” he says. For this reason, she had her eye on University Park, a popular student party spot and festival venue, says Wax.
“They squelched most of the activity in the park,” he remembers.
Wax decided to host three events at the University Park Warming House, an enclosed venue inside the park, with the goal of bringing the fun back to the old watering hole. He organized a spoken word night, an outdoor family skating event, complete with skating and a live music night featuring the Zen People, a popular Grand Forks hip hop group.
“I had some of the first organized public events to come back to the park in any capacity,” says Wax.
He notes the events were modest. In fact, he believes this is why they achieved some success: “If there’s any notion I’d like to introduce from the whole thing, it’s that there’s nothing wrong with working small and with the resources you have,” says Wax.
“Start small, and know you can count on yourself,” he says. “Shape your initiative according to your means.”