Franciscan University student and Patheos contributor Marc Barnes wrote a piece recently describing his new initiative with fellow students to help revitalize downtown Steubenville, Ohio.
The students started the Harmonium Project to "establish a thriving music scene in the heart of downtown Steubenville, to be a source of revitalization by way of beauty." The goal is to create a cultural center in Steubenville that will attract students from Franciscan University and neighboring universities and have a beneficial impact on the local economy.
While Barnes noted that Franciscan University reaches out in many ways to an economically depressed Steubenville, he said that "an organic integration between the student body and the downtown" area is needed.
Together with fellow students, Barnes worked to restore a ballroom of a downtown Steubenville building and transform it into a music venue. "We called on students to help, and their response was overwhelming," he wrote.
Here is more from Barnes' Bad Catholic blog:
We are doing this because we know that when hundreds of college students regularly come down to hear great music, a coffee shop next to the music venue makes a whole lot of sense. A record store is a natural conclusion. An art studio finds in downtown Steubenville a possible niche. I can’t give specifics, but I’ll say this: Just the hope of a student presence in downtown Steubenville has already inspired the purchase of property in the downtown, the initial development of new businesses aimed at university students. We are trying to be a catalyst for change, a spark on kindling, a snowball rolling down an avalanche to eventual social justice.
And to further integrate the student body and the city, we’re turning parts of the building into music rooms, to offer free music activities to kids who otherwise couldn’t afford them. Already students have volunteered to teach music lessons, to be there as a loving presence in the life of a child. Already locals have been donating their used instruments. There is a real excitement about the possibility of a turning tide.
We found a truth I hoped to find, that people want to love where they live, to act, to change their world — they are usually just looking for a way. So over the school year I became obnoxiously acquainted with drywall and paint, belt sanders and polyurethane, my own absolute reliance on the goodwill and help of other people, and the strong sense of community a project of hope can bring.
The students have launched a capital campaign for the Harmonium Project. Learn more about their work here.
Franciscan University of Steubenville is recommended in The Newman Guide for its strong Catholic identity.
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