Dinner in the Street: It’s what collaboration looks like

A perfect culmination of a year brimming with creative placemaking efforts, more than 200 guests and volunteers took part in Old Town’s biggest placemaking experiment yet: Dinner in the Street.

Bunnell introduced the term “Creative Placemaking” to our Homer community last June at the announcement of our ArtPlace America grant. ArtPlace America is a collaboration of 14 foundations, eight federal agencies and six financial institutions who are strengthening American communities through social, physical and economic development around artist-led initiatives.

The central inspiration of the Dinner in the Street idea was an effort to reclaim public space, enriching a sense of place and neighborhood identity by creating an ephemeral, participatory event. 

We shut down the street. We celebrated community. We were surrounded by public art (gardens, murals and an outdoor buoy sculpture by Jarod Charzewski). Inside Bunnell Street Arts Center displayed a Silent Art Auction, featuring work by 36 Alaskan artists. We tasted local Old Town cuisine. We ate out of handcrafted bowls. We were pedestrians reclaiming the street as our commons. 

Together, we made a space a special “place.” 

Bunnell Street Arts Center would especially like to thank the Elks Lodge for being such an incredible gracious host for this event. The Elks agreed to accommodate the event as a “rain date location,” but when the sun pushed through the clouds, we were able to have the best of both worlds: appetizers and desserts outside on West Bunnell Avenue and a sit-down bouillabaisse dinner at the Elks Lodge. The Elks has an undoubtedly high priority for community building. The success of this Old Town event is largely due to the Elks’ generosity and commitment to fostering healthy collaborative relationships in Old Town, for Old Town (and beyond). I’d like to personally thank Elks Loyal Knight, Tom Stroozas, and Exalted Ruler, Marlena Hodgdon, for the facilitation of this first-time Dinner in the Street event. Thank you for partnering with us and showing our guests how proud we are of the new Old Town collaborative efforts.

Thank you to Maura’s Café and Delicatessen. Café co-owner and president of Bunnell’s Board of Directors, Maura Brenin organized and executed the Kachemak Bay seafood bouillabaisse, ratatouille and local greens main dish. To make our feast even more artful, she also marshalled two hundred local bowls from the cabinets of many gracious Bunnell artists and volunteers. With a fantastic team, she and John Brown, chef of AJ’s Steakhouse, poached crab, salmon, scallops, shrimp and shellfish in the saffron wine broth for 200+ guests. It was incredible.

Thank you to all of our Old Town restaurants. Two Sisters Bakery provided local greens, fresh baked bread and our fantastic local rhubarb slab pie dessert. Thank you Adrienne Sweeney of AJ’s Old Town Steakhouse for providing salmon and serving our libations. Thank you to “Tiny” and Lisa Nolan, of Fat Olives for providing the delicious torta appetizers. Thank you, Jeff and Kelly Lockwood of Monkey’s Fist Charcuterie, for the handmade charcuterie spread. Carey Restino and Snowshoe Hollow Farms also provided the 200-person dinner with donations of local greens, thank you.

Finally, Bunnell Street Arts Center’s board and staff would like to thank our festive and hardworking volunteers: Desiree Hagen, Dina Gherman, Marcia Lynn, Rachael Brennan, Nikki Hennick, Daniel Bolton, Bill Wimmerstedt, Carl Bice, Kelly Jackman, Jeremy Bough, John Whittier, Melisse Reichman, Liz Villareal and Gus Beck.

And thank you to all of our guests who came to celebrate Bunnell’s past year’s creative placemaking efforts. Your participation made it the unforgettable success it was.

Brianna M. Allen is the Old Town development coordinator for Bunnell Street Arts Center.