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Volunteer Profile: Michael Spain

Mike Spain Associate AIA, NOMA,  is a long-time volunteer, current advisory council member, past board member, and all-around amazing  supporter! He has worked with us on several design grants in which we integrated the Architecture in Education program into our design grants so that the students could help design the projects.

Recently, Mike was appointed Director of Design Education at The Center for Architecture and Design (Center).  While Congratulating Mike on a well-deserved role, we took the opportunity to  ask him about this passion community engagement in community revitalization: 

1. Why is design an important part of revitalizing communities? 

I’ve always thought it was important for community to be part of the process. Design plays a part in how you live and how you feel. When that revitalization happens, communities need to be aware of how the design affects them. If a community is involved in design, then components result in things they like or can address as well as issues they are not comfortable with. Revitalization is not just about newness, but creating a space and place that they are comfortable in.  

2. You are a veteran volunteer of the Collaborative, what has been most surprising, rewarding, or fun about your Collaborative experience? 

I can’t say any of them have been surprising. I say that because we go in with this mission to help these communities that want our help. When we’re going in, we see the need, and they are really grateful for the opportunity to be engaged and learn about the process. So, I expect a reawrding experience because the communities really have an enthusiasm in coming to us to do the work. So, I can’t say I’ve been surprised in the work we’ve done and the things we’ve talked about. 

One project experience that was rewarding was the first building project I was a part of with People Achieving Positive Attitudes/ A Feasibility study for a youth center, which was a community project. There was a police officer wanted a neighborhood community center for kids. What was so rewarding about that; I won’t say her expectations were low, but they were somewhat guarded. At the end of the process she was so grateful and thankful that we would take time out to help her with what she thought was a great cause and for providing her something she would go out and try to sell and do. While, unfortunately that project didn’t reach implementation, the engagement and the fact that she was so thankful that we were giving her something she could take back to the community was rewarding. 

Another rewarding experience was getting the chance to work with the students of Allegheny West Foundation, when they were looking at the 22nd street corridor. These kids came in, knowing it was part of their program. When they found out that they would be presenting to the merchants and the adults, they really took it upon themselves, to say “Hey, we’re really gonna do this.".  And, as they were going through the process, they kept asking ”Is this really going to be shown?”.  When the day came when the students presented, it really went over well! I saw from them and the rest of the team, how full they felt. That they were able to do this, accomplish it, present it to the adults and have it be heard. 

So that was probably the 2nd most rewarding experience I had. 

The fun is the collaboration…with my peers and also with the clients. I enjoy seeing the process and the results afterwards. 

3. What do you love most about Philadelphia? 

I like the mix Philadelphia has. It has this metropolitan feel. All the trappings of a large city, without being as busy or involved. It has this intimate flavor. On top of that, that character comes through because it’s a city of neighborhoods. People really represent the areas they’re from, and that gives the city character. As well, how walkable the city is, to touch on all the museums, parks and festivals within the different neighborhoods make it really attractive, and I appreciate that.  

4. Is there anything else you'd like to share about yourself? 

I have a personal philosophy: “I think it’s important, as a citizen, to be engaged in your community or in a cause, no matter what it is. And at whatever level you feel comfortable doing it. Just be involved and being engaged.  I think anyone can make an impact or change if they use their energy and resources to let their voice be heard and participate in a process that will ultimately benefit them. Engagement to me is really important, and involvement in your communities can make a difference.  

To have a passion and be engaged is a service to that passion."  



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