How a Centuries-Old Art Form Helps Build and Bond Today’s Communities

By Denise D. Resnik, Founder & President/CEO, First Place® AZ

From the earliest days of designing First Place–Phoenix, we used the concept of kintsugi—the Japanese art of golden repair—to describe our approach to creating, developing and connecting home and community.

Kintsugi is a centuries-old art form. The artist smashes a perfect piece of pottery and then repairs it with gold resin to take its strength, beauty and uniqueness to even greater heights—a metaphor for the life lesson that you can pick up and reassemble the pieces as you learn to embrace and honor the cracks of human imperfection—and our perfectly imperfect communities.

Today, more than ever, kintsugi serves to enjoin the many facets of life at First Place in a special, bonding way that builds personal relationships in particular and community in general.

For example, we have allocated generous space to common areas for gatherings and chance interactions. That resin is also ever-present in so many welcoming locations throughout Greater Phoenix, acknowledged by PBS NewsHour as “the most autism-friendly city in the world.”

Over the past 15 years, however, that common gold resin unifying our communities around the globe has been diminished. According to Noreena Hertz in her book, The Lonely Century, “physical spaces where people of all stripes can come together, interact and form bonds have been severely neglected at best and at worst actively destroyed starting around the time of the 2008 financial crisis.” Hertz notes that this was also “accelerated markedly…as government policies of austerity took a sledgehammer to libraries, public parks, playgrounds and use of community centers across much of the world.”

Hertz goes on to note so presciently: “Why this matters so profoundly is because such places are not only where we come together but also where we learn how to do so, places where we practice civility and also democracy and its inclusive form, by learning how to peacefully coexist with people different from us and how to manage different points of views. Without such spaces that bring us together it’s inevitable that we will pull ever further apart.

“Our health, it seems, is molded not only by community and a feeling of being connected to others but also by kindness. The kindness of friends and family, colleagues, employers and neighbors—but also the kindness of strangers. As we rebuild our post COVID-19 world, we need to remember this.”

First Place successfully pivoted from the negative to the positive with our COVID-inspired Kind It Forward® initiative that served to help rebuild our community in just the way Hertz articulates.

As we continue to face the unexpected upheaval of the recent past and the challenges of an ever more uncertain future, creatively practicing kintsugi can be the catalyst for needed connection and strengthening in myriad ways. It starts with each of us—and ends with all of us.

Connect with us online or in person during the 11th First Place Global Leadership Institute Symposium, Oct. 19–21. Register today!

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