April 28, 2016
Community Is What You Make It
Community is a word that is thrown around a lot.
Supporting the community, engaging with the community, etc. To us, that seems kind of vague. What does it mean to support a community? Why does that only sound weirdly financial? How do you engage with a community? It’s not like they’re all standing there, and you can walk up to the community as an entity and just start talking to it. There’s something else going on here, and we’re interested in dissecting that idea.
We started thinking about it more this weekend, after the Pinewood Classic event at Short Leash Hot Dogs. The Pinewood Classic is an annual, adults-only pinewood derby tournament (though there is a separate kids event). It has a huge turn out every year, where people have crazy costumes and amazing cars. It is not a design specific event; it’s for everyone.
This is an event that engages the community. It’s not a conference. It’s not a lecture or a networking event. It’s a pinewood derby, and it’s really, really fun (see: our super awesome Tardis car above).
“I’m wary of the word ‘community’ because it sounds very organized. I think there’s a value in surrounding yourself with people who stimulate and challenge you, who don’t just agree with you all the time. But I think the most important thing is to feel safe, seen, and understood by the people around you. I believe it was Bill Nye who said this—everyone in your life knows something you don’t. And I believe it’s important to live in that unknown and to welcome and celebrate it. That can only happen when you actually come into contact with people and not in superficial ways, but when you deeply connect with them.” — Maria Popova, The Great Discontent
Community doesn’t have to be organized or overtly professional. Sometimes words like “networking” get tossed around with community as if there is some sort of professional diamond in the rough to be found. The truth is, community is about building relationships. That’s it. Community is what you put into it. It is your time, your energy, your compassion, your humility.
“If I talk to a hundred different designers, each one will say, ‘I wish we had more of a design community in New York.’ This is a funny statement. Everybody believes that there either is a community and they’re not part of it or that there should be one and it doesn’t exist. But what we’re seeing now is that people have broken up into individual communities where there is a single person in the center of each—and this isn’t just happening in design. Part of me wants to get people really talking and interacting with each other. The other part thinks maybe there is value in the tribes, but asks how we can discover new ideas. If you’re in your own echo chamber, it’s difficult to grow as a person.” — Juliette Cezzar, The Great Discontent
With The Pinewood Classic on our minds, we talked to Doug Penick, the founder of the event and a local designer, about what he thinks of community:
What inspired you to come up with the Pinewood Classic event?
After having helped plan and organize several events here in Phoenix, including the ever popular Pedal Craft, I caught the bug. I love getting people together in Phoenix and watching a community grow and create together.
I grew up building pinewood derby cars with my dad as a cub scout, but during a visit home a few years ago he had fully geeked out on the secrets of winning and building the fastest car scientifically possible. I came home wishing that I had a way to participate in a pinewood derby race. I told my friend Brad Moore (half of the husband and wife team who own Short Leash Hot Dogs) about the idea, and no sooner than the words had come out of my mouth, I had an event partner and a venue. Brad and Kat have championed this event and truly helped this idea turn into a 3 year strong tradition.
How have you seen it evolve over the years?
The thing about The Pinewood Classic is that it’s based 100% in nostalgia. Most of those who are participating have a long history with pinewood derby racing. It’s a special event. Our first year we sold out to participants in 3 days. From year one, we’ve seen more thoughtful design concepts, tighter competition, and a swelling sense of excitement from the racers and spectators alike. More sponsors are now partnering to ensure the future viability of this event, and we’ve seen widespread support from local leaders and influencers.
How do you define being active in your community?
I think it ultimately comes down to giving more than you take. Phoenix is a great city, and our downtown community has an incredibly supportive culture. We love our neighborhoods because we love our neighbors, we celebrate when cool things are happening, we throw our entire support behind local business owners. This is a place where, if you have an idea worth pursuing, you will easily receive the support of your friends and neighbors. I really believe that if we can foster that culture of celebrating good people and great ideas that Phoenix will be an inimitable city. I actually believe we’re well on our way there already.
How would you encourage people to get involved in their communities?
Pay attention to people. Go outside and take a walk. If you have a good idea, share it. Find a new restaurant. Give someone a hug and a high five. Forget about Netflix, just chill. Start building your car for the fourth annual Pinewood Classic next April.