We at “Porchfest Central” welcome porches (as well as front steps, lawns, and driveways) in any location in Arlington. We do notice that people tend to go to porches where there are other porches with performers within walking distance. With a little planning and communication, you and your neighbors can create a cluster that becomes a Porchfest destination. To help explain the details, we turned to Porchfest veteran Dottie Nash-Webber, who has led the effort to make Bartlett Ave a “must-visit” street.
What makes a cluster? We recommend 3 or more performance locations (a porch, driveway or lawn) within 4 blocks that would be attractive to musicians, and/or dancers, and/or visual artists.
Step 1: Choose at least one neighbor who you think might also like to host. Write a hand written note, phone or email suggesting that they join you to work together on this project. Your co-chair will know some neighbors better than you do and will have some new ideas about how to make your cluster successful. You also have the beginning of a committee.
Step 2: What will your cluster be like? Hold an organizational meeting. Dottie goes door to door, making sure her neighbors get an invitation to meet to brainstorm and develop a collaborate vision. Which leads to the next step…
Step 3: Brainstorm a list of what needs to be done, and ask for volunteers for the various tasks. Bartlett Avenue’s list this year includes recruiting more porches/driveways/lawns (in some cases with themes: a French cafe at one porch, dance troupes at another, etc), making signs to put on every corner of the neighborhood to help visitors find their way to performances, even making food as a thank you to performers! Your neighborhood may have a very different vision for your neighborhood on Porchfest day, and thus, its own unique “to do” list. At the meeting, have attendees choose what they will work on and identify other neighbors who might volunteer for the remaining tasks. Follow-up with each other every few days via broadcast email with progress and what still needs to be accomplished.
Step 4: Create a schedule and deadline. The Porchfest process is labor intensive on both ends with a lull in the middle. There is a PorchFest deadline in May for when porches and performers must have registered on the website to be included on the printed map. Dottie suggests that your neighborhood deadline be much earlier and that neighbors push hard to contact performers and artists asap! Make the contacts. Choose what goes where. Put everything on website. Relax and smile at a job well done!
Step 5: Choose musicians, dancers, artists, etc. The easiest way to do this is by using the Porchfest website and contacting groups and individuals who are “looking for a porch.” Bartlett Ave. neighbors also contact groups and artists they know and networked to find International acts and young performers. These groups would then have to list on the Porchfest website along with the location where they will be performing. A volunteer to coordinate this piece is very helpful.
Step 6: Send out the line-up to the larger neighborhood a few days before Porchfest. The Bartlett Avenue cluster included performances on nearby Jason Street, Newman Way, and Windermere Ave. They distributed 140 flyers to “warn” the neighbors that there would be more noise and traffic and to market the various acts and artists.
Step 7: Porchfest Day. Volunteer to be Stage Manager/Contact person. There are always last minute questions from hosts and performers/artists, and sometimes glitches. It is critical to have a neighborhood contact person to help during the neighborhood’s hours of operation. All involved need to exchange cell phone numbers.
Finally – As always, we are here to help. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if questions arise as you are assembling your neighborhood cluster.