Did you know that JP Porchfest drew over 10,000 attendees to Jamaica Plain this year? JP Porchfest is held on porches throughout JP and builds community through music and other art forms. Today, we are chatting with Mindy Fried and Marie Ghitman, the producers of JP Porchfest, about helping other neighborhoods start their Porchfests, how JP Porchfest has tripled in size, and their mission around diversity.
K: Where are you from originally and where do you live now?
MG: I was born in Brooklyn, New York. I lived there for four months and then my family moved to Paris, France because my dad was in the army there. Now, I live in Jamaica Plain. I have been here for most of the last 30 years.
MF: I’m from Buffalo, New York and I lived there for the first 17 years of my life. I’ve lived in Boston since 1980 and most of that time has been in JP.
K: How was Porchfest started?
MG: The original Porchfest was in Ithaca, New York in 2007 so we don’t take credit for the original idea. It now happens in about 50 towns and cities throughout the country including Somerville. That is where we heard about it and thought it would be a great fit for JP but with a different kind of focus. JP Porchfest started out based on the original model but we’ve also created our own model. We have also fostered others who have come to us for help with starting their own Porchfest.
MF: San Francisco was the first to come to us and then Maplewood New Jersey, Arlington, Plum Island, Fitchburg, Quincy, and a few others. We have a guide that we made that helps people figure out the ABCs of a Porchfest. We offer a little coaching and support. There are probably about 50 Porchfests throughout the country and we love them all. They are all great celebrations of community.
JP Porchfest is a little different in that we have a mission around diversity. We have explicitly decided that we want to use this opportunity to build community across the divides of race, class, culture, and immigrant status. We really feel that there is a way to do that – in an operational, ground level way, which is labor intensive, but it is so worth it. What happens then is that we are able to work with community groups like JPNDC, the Main Streets, Franklin Park Coalition, Hyde Square Task Force, and all these different groups. We work with them throughout the year and they become invested in being a part of the event.
K: What is the process for choosing the porches and bands?
MG: We have a way of matching porches that is pretty exciting! The main way that we are different, and it’s because we have this mission, is that other Porchfests have a sign up system where bands sign themselves up with their porch. You have to either have a porch yourself or know someone in the neighborhood and, usually, you have to be from that neighborhood. We ask people to donate their porches for the day and then we have performers sign up and they can be from anywhere. They don’t have to have a porch of be from JP. We introduce the performers to the porches before the event. We do all the mixing and matching and it’s really fun.