2020 Community Chill Night - Chili and Stew Contest

Community Chill, March 13 6:30 pm at the Onyx Room (Western Ave Studios)

We're inviting you to our fourth annual chili and stew contest with music, games, community awards, and a DIY "Chilly" Dessert. Our goal is to build community in Lowell by bringing together young people and elders, downtown and neighborhoods, townies and newcomers. This annual fundraiser celebrates the projects and events that have activated our underused spaces, brought diverse populations together, and made Lowell better.

$5 Suggested Donation in Advance/$10 at the Door - Donate and RSVP in advance at https://diylowell.brownpapertickets.com

Spread the word at https://www.facebook.com/events/500819843906859/

...and check out previous award and contest winners here!

We Need Your Help!

We need your help in the following ways. Nominations due February 15 and chili and stew entries due February 25!

Award Nominations * Chili Entries * Sponsors * Volunteers

Nominate a Community Member or Group

We need nominations for people and groups you think have made a difference in making Lowell's public spaces more vibrant, exciting, kid-friendly, colorful, walkable, or better! All nominees will get a mention in our award ceremony, and winners will get a $20 giftcard for individual and 10 volunteer hours for a group!

Nominate a Group

Submit a Chili or Stew Entry

This year, we're hoping for a mix of cultural and ethnic stews with American chilis - anything tasty can compete! We are looking for all kinds: traditional and totally off the wall, meat or vegetable based—you name it. No cost to enter; categories for restaurants and individuals.

Enter a Chili

Get a VIP Table or Become a Sponsor

We honor all our 2020 Meteor Shower and Comet sponsors at this special event! Special perks for being a sponsor include VIP treatment for your organization, a banner at the event, and promotion on social media and on our mailing list.

Even if you aren't from an organization, a donation would be a big help! After a year of Strategic Planning with our Advisory Committee, we're kicking off a new era of DIY Lowell and raising funds to hire our first-ever part time Program Director. Donations big and small will help us reach our goal.

Check out our sponsor information (pdf) and email info@diylowell.org with expressions of interest.

Volunteer to Help Out

We need help setting up activities, counting chili ballots, scooping ice cream, and more! Please consider helping us out on March 1. Click on the button for a form with all volunteer opportunities.


*Thanks to Marte Media for the photos of our '17 event!

DIY Community Chill Night Flyer

A DIY Lowell Appeal In Verse

Fall vines on a brick wall

We wanted to share this lovely appeal from our Program Director, Emily Ferrara:

As the Last Leaves Fall

Squirrels gather nuts, then bolt up trunks.
Skunks bulk up at night on fallen apples.

Monarchs skirt the milkweed-silken fields.
Birds take wing to fairer ground, warm climes.

Here in Lowell, we’re hunkering down
For the next New England winter

Of snow emergencies, slick sidewalks
Of holiday blues and cheer.

As light declines and Thanksgiving nears,
Let the season’s windfall lift our hearts.

Let’s count our blessings (and our funds),
invest today in the promise of our much-loved city.

◊   ◊   ◊   ◊   ◊   ◊   ◊   ◊   ◊   ◊   ◊   ◊   ◊   ◊   ◊   ◊   ◊   ◊   ◊   ◊   ◊

Dear Readers,

Although I don’t often write “occasional poems”,  I decided to give it a try for this special DIY Lowell occasion — our annual fund appeal.

As many of you know, not quite 6 months ago, I became the first program director of the wonderful grassroots organization known as DIY Lowell. Building on nearly 5 years of volunteer-driven success, I have been lucky to collaborate with the founders, advisory board, community of volunteers and supporters to implement the fourth annual Community Idea Summit program and launch four new projects for the 2019-2020 cycle. At the same time, we’ve been working to grow the organization’s capacity, and to expand our outreach efforts to promote broader and more diverse participation.

As giving Tuesday approaches, please consider making a donation to help DIY Lowell continue its work to empower residents to dream up and effect positive change in Lowell.  Thank you!


(photo by Emily Ferrara, cross-posted from https://emilyferrara.wordpress.com/2019/11/22/a-diy-lowell-appeal-in-verse/)

Four Projects for 2020!

We had an amazing turnout at our fourth annual Community Idea Summit with more than 40 people ready to volunteer their time and energy to kick off community projects. We hope we’ll see great success by summer 2020 for all four! You can help by attending their first meeting or, if that time doesn’t work for you, emailing info@diylowell.org with thoughts or interest.

Gateway to St. Anne's

Underground Railroad Monument will look at a potential short-term walking path with signs and long-term interpretive signs at key locations teaching about the anti-slavery movement and the underground railroad in Lowell. They’ll need folks good at fundraising, knowledgable about history, or connected with diverse communities to help!

Their first meeting is Sunday, October 6, 2019 at 6:30pm at Coffee and Cotton.


Teens working in studio

Open Arts Spaces is DIY Lowell’s first Young Idea Project. They will identify a space or spaces for young people (ages 13-21) to explore visual or performing arts in a youth-focused environment with mentorship from local artists. They need input from young people, visual and performing artists, educators, and other community members who want to help make this idea happen!

Their first meeting is October 17 at 4:00 pm at Lowell Community Health Center, 6th floor Community Health Education Center, 161 Jackson Street, Lowell.

Ghost sign projection

Ghost Sign Projections will select three historic signs – maybe including the Lawrence Mills mural near the Riverwalk, the Coca-Cola sign downtown, and one other ghost sign to create a living projection. They’ll need people with knowledge of projector equipment, working with downtown building owners, and making animated art.

Their first meeting is Wednesday, October 23, time TBD at 491 Dutton Street.

Did You Know Sign

Did You Know Signs for Lowell will work with community leaders to zip-tie temporary signs with facts about Lowell’s zoning, land use, and more to inspire people to think about how Lowell’s laws shape its community and become interested in local government.

The first meeting is being chosen by poll to be on Friday, October 18 or Friday, November 8 at 7 pm.

Welcome to the DIY Lowell Street Team

DIY Lowell’s Street Team spends the summer getting out into the community and spreading the word about DIY Lowell! Please say hello to them if you see them at an event or on the street. They also are in charge of DIY Lowell’s social media and tend to be outstanding folks in general.

See them in action at festivals and groups! Want DIY Lowell to visit your group? Let us know at info@diylowell.org! Hear about them in their own voice:

Amina Bangura

Amina Bangura

Hello, my name is Amina Bangura, and I am a birthed Acre resident. I have lived in Lowell pretty much my whole life. I am a 16 year old student attending Lowell High School, and I am approaching my senior year this fall. I enjoy volunteering at community events and programs, and I am involved in an Environmental After School program at the high school and Girls, Inc. Lowell, and I am very passionate about making the world more sustainable so we all can live efficiently. I also enjoy helping people and learning new objectives.

Isabella CacioliIsabella Cacioli

Hi! I’m Isabella Cacioli, and I’m a 2019 DIY Lowell Street Team Member. I’m originally from New Haven County in Connecticut, but moved to Lowell for college. I’m soon approaching my senior year at UMass Lowell, and am majoring in Journalism while minoring in marketing.

Carter NewellCarter Newell

Hi! My name is Carter Newell. I love photography and I am a Psychology major at Middlesex Community College. My passion in life is helping people, and I get a chance to do that here at DIY Lowell!

Chill Night is Just the Beginning!

Three weeks ago, we had the most amazing night that it’s taken us this long to recover! The 2019 Community Chill Night was a blast. We had over 80 people taste eleven chilis, learn about eight amazing community groups and individuals, participate in “Building Lowell” collaborative art, and finish the evening with ice cream and the Squires of Soul. Thank you so much to everyone who made this event possible, including chili cooks, volunteers, sponsors, and participants! Check out our photos here.


Chili Winners

Chili winners UTEC, Photo by Britt Boughner

Chili winners UTEC, Photo by Britt Boughner

We know you want to know who won if you haven’t heard already!

But every chili received plaudits, including the runners up…

…and last, but not least, Britt Boughner’s Christian Hill Chili Pods took home the amateur chili award Congratulations to all!

Photo by Jack Mitchell
Photo by Jack Mitchell

Community Awards

RISE Coalition receives their award, photo by Britt Boughner

RISE Coalition receives their award, photo by Britt Boughner

If you missed it, RISE Coalition was selected to receive the 2019 COMMUNITY TRANSFORMATION AWARD for Welcoming Week Lowell! Among many events, including an outdoor film screening, the Welcoming Week planning committee and Enterprise Bank collaborated with youth engaged in organizations around the City to create panels of art to be displayed outside of the Merrimack St. Enterprise branch.

Artist Mary Hart won the 2019 VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR AWARD for her dedication to DIY Lowell projects such as Downtown Winter Decoration and Midsummer Dream 2 Magical Festival. Mary embodies the DIY spirit even when not working on specific DIY events or projects – as she regularly and creatively promotes art and artists in the Lowell Area.

Thanks to our Sponsors

Community Chill Night, Photo by Britt Boughner

Community Chill Night, Photo by Britt Boughner

Star Sponsor Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union
Super Sponsor Enterprise Bank

VIP Sponsors

  • D’Youville Health and Wellness Center
  • Felicia Sullivan
  • Gallagher & Cavanaugh
  • Greater Lowell Community Foundation
  • Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust
  • Lowell Plan

Thanks also to…

Lowell Cultural Council for supporting this program in part by a grant. Lowell Cultural Counil is a local agency which is supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency.

Greater Lowell Community Foundation, providing a generous grant for our new Young Ideas Project, that will engage young people in planning a special project or event they vote on.

What’s new with DIY Lowell?

There’s never been a better time to start connecting with DIY Lowell!

Community Chill Night

We’re having a Community Chill Night fundraiser this March 9! A special chili contest party with chili sampling, music, games, nonalchoholic drinks, community awards, and our famous “Chilly” DIY Sundae bar! We’ll have special activities such as lantern decorating for the Points of Light Lantern Celebration, photobooth, and learning about our 2018 projects. It’s the perfect way to break winter malaise for families, teens, seniors, and adults! Join the Facebook Event, register here, and join us for a special night.

Lowell Trash Machine

Canal in Lowell, MAThe Lowell Trash Machine is a community volunteer based project to design, construct, and operate an autonomous robot to remove floating trash from the historic canals. UMass Lowell students are designing and building the prototype, and the DIY Lowell team is running a naming contest, connecting with high schoolers to add creative elements to the utilitarian robot, and more. Learn more at their website!

Summer Dreaming Downtown Pixie Marketplace and Festival

Fairy in LowellThe Midsummer Dream event will be a summer day and night festival for kids and adults with a magical fairy theme, with a marketplace, costume contest, kids craft and storytime, and a special “traveling” production of Shakespeare’s classic “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” that will lead the audience through downtown, traveling from scene to scene. This event will be in honor of Lee Pho, owner of Little Delights and a force for magic and joy in Downtown Lowell, who we lost to cancer last year. DIY Lowell, Humanity Boutique, Pollard Memorial Library, and Studio 506 Theatre are partnering for the event, but we need community help! Our next planning session is Thursday, February 8. Join the Facebook event via the link!

Community Idea Voting and Summit!

Thanks, everyone, for your votes. We’re happy to announce the top four winners!


These will be discussed at the 2016 Community Idea Summit, happening 6:30 pm at the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub at 110 Canal Street. We are excited to have Strive For Change Lifestyle kicking us off with a special performance and Rosemary Noon and Paul Marion talk about how art builds community in Lowell! After that, we’ll break into groups to discuss winning ideas with community officials. You can add the it to your calendar using the links below and sign up on our Facebook event!

iCalendar  •  Google Calendar  •  Outlook  •  Outlook Online  •  Yahoo! Calendar

Bike Racks: Lessons about Getting Allies and Calls for Artists

bike2The Lowell-Themed Artistic Bicycle Racks project is one of two to come out of the “wild card” group. It didn’t win the online vote; it won because folks who were passionate about it showed up at the summit ready to advocate for it. The Artistic Bike Rack idea had support from the Lowell Bike Coalition, and they drew in others who were interested in the idea of promoting bicycling and art downtown. Their idea was to install one or more bike racks that would be works of art in their own right and provide a safe spot to park bicycles.

What’s been going on?

This group was able to accomplish an impressive amount in a short time. They set their first meeting soon after the summit, and quickly developed a plan to obtain funding, create design guidelines, put out a call for artists, and select suitable locations.

Their fundraising efforts have been remarkably successful. They set up a GoFundMe page, which so far has raised $1,700, including donations from individuals, the Greater Lowell Convention and Visitors Bureau, and beloved downtown staple Cobblestones. They also won a competitive grant from the Lowell Cultural Council.

The funding enabled them to put out a call for artists with a cash prize for design, materials, and fabrication. From among the artists’ submissions, the committee selected two designs, and once the fabrication planning is complete, they hope to partner with the Greater Lowell Technical High School to manufacture the racks.

That they have locations, donations, and a plan for fabrication is a testament to this group’s impressive ability to bring allies on board and get others excited about the idea. Lisa Arnold, one of the group’s leaders, traces this back to a crucial moment at the summit. Within the Wild Card group, it was clear that they had a lot of support for the bike rack idea, and it was suggested that those interested immediately separate. Lisa pushed back, pointing out that if the idea was going to succeed it had to have the support of the non-cycling community to survive and thrive.

Early in the process, the group scouted prospective locations with City of Lowell staff.

Early in the process, the group scouted prospective locations with City of Lowell staff.

They’ve been able to bring many others on board, probably due to a combination of it being a great idea and the dedicated and energized outreach of group members. The National Park Service is on board, offering the spot in front of the Mogan Center, and the continuing input and support of Christine Bruins. Christine’s willingness to set aside time for a community project is good news for Lowell going forward. Mill No. 5, offering another spot, once again proves itself a center of innovation and creativity in the community. Deb Belanger of the Greater Lowell Convention and Visitors Bureau has been another important ally. Finally, networking with Curtis LeMay of the Greater Lowell Technical High School Committee has provided a possible avenue for fabrication, as the Voke students may be able to construct them as a project.

Lisa Arnold says that working on this project has been a challenge and an opportunity for her as an introvert. She says it’s gotten her to events to network, and given her something to talk about as she meets new people. Connecting and empowering community leaders is one of the larger goals of DIY Lowell, and so hearing that it has done just that for her means that DIY Lowell is fulfilling its mission.

Calls for Artists: Lessons learned?

The group used this Call for Artists to solicit designers for two bike racks.

The group used this Call for Artists to solicit designers for two bike racks.

The most challenging aspect for the group was the request for proposals. They just didn’t get as strong a response as they hoped for. Lisa has some guesses about why. They chose to ask for technical drawings rather than loose sketches, and that may have been too high a bar for entry for some. The open period also took place in December to January, over UML’s holiday break, and Lisa suspects that might have limited their ability to capture student interest. Finally, they found it more challenging than they expected to communicate with the artist community. Some hiccups are always a part of a process like this, but maybe hearing about these will help a future project plan around them.

And what’s next?

They’ll soon be releasing their finished concepts and moving on to fabrication. From there, if all goes well they should start being installed over the summer.  If you want to get involved, you can join the group as it moves forward, or donate to their GoFundMe.

Decorating Downtown Lowell

You may have heard about our most recent project last December. The Downtown Holiday Display program wasn’t part of the five ideas coming out of the 2015 Community Idea Summit, but it was a great showcase of how a group can come together quickly to take advantage of an opportunity and set themselves up for the future. In a nutshell, we helped decorate downtown storefronts with art, merchandise displays, or other decorations, but the story might contain lessons for others.

The Genesis of the Idea

2010 Lowell Artwalk Brochure

2010 Lowell Artwalk Brochure

This idea wasn’t new. In fact, a community member suggested a similar idea, and it was very close to being one of the top ideas in 2015. Additionally, Aurora and I learned that Lowell had a summer Art Walk several years ago, sponsored by local institutions and philanthropists.

However, the timing and exact nature of the Downtown Holiday Display program came from learning that City of Lights includes a decorating contest with prizes up to $125, but only a handful of businesses usually participate. The theme was “Sparkly, Snowy, Spectacular,” broad enough that everyone should be able to participate. Also, by participating, businesses would be listed on a ballot for people’s choice awards. We proposed that some businesses might join if they had a bit of prompting and help decorating.

In addition, we learned a staff member from the City was putting together a special display featuring the Snow Bunny and recreating a fan-favorite Polar Express train display in the former Welles Emporium. We realized that we could help make a critical mass of displays, perhaps creating an attraction that could last after City of Lights and draw people in from neighboring communities!

Getting the Interest

With this in mind, we were faced with a chicken-and-egg dilemma: do we ask the businesses and find empty storefronts first, to know there was a demand? Or do we assemble a team and do fundraising first, to know that we had the resources to help? Ultimately, we did both at the same time. We knew time was a factor, and we could be careful to not promise anything as we were gauging interest.

Lowell’s Special Events office had a list of downtown business contacts, which we used to send an email asking for interest in decorating help. Although we expected only one or two businesses to respond, we ultimately got more than a dozen! Some were established businesses looking for help to take their displays “to the next level”, while others were businesses that might have trouble doing anything at all if they didn’t receive help.


Woodland Fantasy display by artist Mary Hart

Meanwhile, we reached out to our DIY Lowell mailing list to ask for help. After getting some great replies, we met several artists and community activists at Coffee and Cotton. Many thought there wasn’t enough time to do anything meaningful, but we argued that if we did something small-scale with the opportunity we did have, we could start earlier and bigger for Winterfest or next year’s City of Lights. It appears to have been convincing, as Mary Hart of First Thursdays agreed to decorate a single empty window as a pilot project; Dan Rocha of ALL worked on a window for Lowell Makes; Crystal Arnott pulled a team together to do a special Humane Society Window; and Katherine DuBose Fuerst agreed to help some stores put together merchandise displays. Britt Boughner and Deborah McDuff offered to help with outreach.

Finding Hosts

The City’s economic development office gave Aurora and I leads on property and business owners with empty windows that might host displays. We also reached out to the owners of Hypertext Bookstore, who had not moved in and had an empty display window. We learned that flexibility was a key – many property owners couldn’t give a key, so we had to arrange to build the displays during certain times. We also learned that art displays were often accidentally lost, meaning that we had to make sure that owners understood that we needed materials back, but we also had to be clear to artists that we shouldn’t use anything that wasn’t irreplaceable. Insurance and contracts help make this less of an issue, but also take time, money, and may scare away potential hosts.


iWorld merchandise display with help from artist Katherine Fuerst

We also had to be creative. We reached out to not only empty storefronts, but also “underutilized” storefronts, which might include first-floor lobbies of banks, insurance agencies, and doctors’ offices. Meanwhile, the City made sure that public agencies such as the Career Center would also decorate their lobbies, especially in what was turning out to be a key block: Merrimack Street between John and Kirk. It was important because so many businesses there were already planning to decorate or participate in City of Lights in other ways, it was the planned location of the City’s Snow Bunny/Polar Express display, and there were a lot of opportunities to make this a marquee block by decorating remaining stores.

Fundraising for Downtown Decorations

In some cases, stores had their own decorations, and they just needed help putting them up. In other cases, they donated money to build a display. Others donated sweat equity, helping put up decorations we provided. Property owners donated space, but required us to provide all materials and build displays ourselves. With that in mind, we conducted a campaign with a goal of $500.

Snow Queen display at HyperText bookstore

Snow Queen display at HyperText bookstore

We raised $400, which was still enough to pay for all the supplies we needed that weren’t donated with a small amount leftover to provide modest thank-you gifts to the artists that worked with us. We learned a few things doing the fundraising. Firstly, while we thought that many people living downtown would donate $10 or $20, in actually, the funds came from larger gifts from a small number of people. Just as in previous efforts, direct appeals worked best, providing more than half of the donations, while the other donations came from those who heard about the project and wanted to help.

We researched a number of online platforms for fundraising, including gofundme, fundly, and direct PayPal donations. We ultimately settled on a lesser-known platform called “Razoo” because they took the smallest cut while still providing tools such as social media sharing and tracking of donors. The back-end was easier to use, and they send one check to our fiscal sponsor, which made things a lot easier than individual payments. However, we have no idea if anyone was afraid or confused about the less-known name (as opposed to something like kickstarter).

Putting Up the Displays

Display at Unique You

Display at Unique You

We ultimately put up a number of displays, some of which have good stories that we will share in a future post. Because of our limited resources, we chose businesses that might have extra challenges in putting up limited decorations.

Sometimes, I felt as if we were cheating, because several of the displays were handled between the business owner and volunteer, and we only played “matchmaker.” Our hope is that we can continue matchmaking in the future, but also use our skills to promote and fund participating businesses and artists.

What’s Next?


Emmanuel merchandise display with help from volunteer Julia Gavin

Two interesting ideas came out of the group:

The first was an idea to bring area nonprofits together to create holiday displays that also promote their missions. The Humane Society might be joined by CTI, CBA, Lowell Transitional Living Center, or others in creating small displays that could be installed in empty or underutilized storefronts.

The second was to recreate the Art Walk, only in the winter. Artists display works in empty or underutilized storefronts from City of Lights to Winterfest, and a trail is developed and promoted for the season. Perhaps $200 per storefront would be budgeted for materials and artist stipends.

Of course, we also want to expand the program of teaming with artists to create merchandise displays in stores that might not otherwise have them, re-using our decorations year to year while also collecting more and more.

We will hopefully determine what we’ll pursue over the summer, and start in early fall to do an expanded program with more promotion!

Lessons Learned

Katherine Fuerst and Eleni Zohdi

Katherine Fuerst and Eleni Zohdi

Part of our goal for the Blog is to share lessons learned. What did we learn from this project?

  • There is a huge appetite for both basic help in decorating and professional artist-led displays in existing storefronts.
  • Property owners are quite willing to host displays if artists can be flexible, but it may take more work to find the right balance between accommodating both hosts and artists.
  • We should continue to be careful to have clear communication between potential hosts and volunteers, so everyone knows what to expect. Budgeting time for double-checking may be important.
  • A lot can be done in a small amount of time, but finding volunteers is a slow process that may need to build from year to year.
  • The City’s Economic Development and Special Events offices were huge helps, so long as we were able to do most of the footwork.
  • Merchandise displays require a special touch working with the storeowners to understand what their unique customers respond to, but also educating the storeowners on best practices.
  • Merchandise displays also require understanding of how to balance or enhance being eye-catching and secure.
  • Promotion takes a lot of time. Although we discussed our efforts on Facebook, it would take more effort to advertise outside of our immediate circle.
  • Displays may be unexpectedly need to be taken down earlier than expected, and it’s unclear how this might affect promotion and how we can prepare for or mitigate this.
  • Fundraising is still tricky, and more work might be needed to see if a small-donation model is feasible.

Look out for future posts about specific displays and other lessons learned! We want to recognize and extend a thanks to Britt, Christine, Corey, Dan, Jack, Julia, Katherine, Mark, Mary, Meghan, Michael, Paul, Samantha, Sheila, Lowell Humane Society, Lowell Makes, Mills42, and Taupier Real Estate/120 Merrimack, who donated decorations, space, time, and/or money to the project. We’ve made downtown brighter together.

The 2015 Idea Run-Down

The previous post discussed the DIY Lowell process of idea submission, voting, and the idea summit. This post will give an overview of the five projects coming out of the summit and where they’re at now.

Downtown History Trail

historytrail2Although the voting was close for many of the ideas, Downtown History Trail was the exception: it was the most popular idea by many votes. It attracted a pool of talented individuals, some more experienced than others. They felt they got a slow start because they spent much of the kick-off summit discussing an appropriate scope for the project—where the trail should go, whether it should have a mobile phone app, and it should be marked. Because of that, they had another session very soon after the first where they picked roles based on their interest. From there on out, they met about once every three weeks to a month to update one another on their progress and make decisions.


The Downtown History Trail group meets with representatives from different organizations.

After discussing the trail idea with Steven Stowell, the administrator for the Lowell Historical Board, and a group of park rangers at Lowell National Historical Park, they sketched out a trail based on the original plans for the National Park. The trail will be sketched out with spray chalk stencils and interpretive signs will be placed at key points along the trail. Their plan was well-received at a meeting with officials from the historic board, COOL, and the National Park. They credit much of the success to having one member draft an outline of what their options were and how the project could be phased—so they could concentrate on the first steps while keeping larger-scale ideas on paper for future years.

Planting Fruit Trees


The Fruit Trees group found success by partnering with other groups and events.

The planting fruit trees group had a different experience. This group’s idea was to find a space—public or private—to plant a fruit tree that the community could support and that would provide free food for neighbors. With the success of one site, they might be able to replicate it throughout the community. Although the group generated some great interest at the summit, they were unable to find a time to meet afterward. After several months, the group reconvened, but lost a few members. Despite this, the group made great progress by meeting with key individuals, such as Jane Calvin at the Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust. She pledged a sapling donation, and the group leader was able to re-energize the group by making a formal announcement at the film screening of “The Fruit Hunters,” co-hosted by Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust. The leader says they “got a GREAT show of support with folks signing on to learn more and be a part of it.” Their next steps are reaching out to private land owners.


Bus Stop Libraries

The Bus Stop Libraries group faced similar problems with finding an initial meeting time. The idea was to install one or more waterproof cabinets stocked with books at bus stops, so bus patrons could take or leave books as they waited for the bus. They coordinated through Facebook, which turned out to be a great spot to brainstorm ideas, but the group found it difficult to make progress from that stage. Once again, they found meeting with key individuals and institutions to be the way forward. They’re gathering information from Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union, which has sponsored similar “Little Free Libraries” at the Boys and Girls Club and Rotary Park.

Artistic Bicycle Racks


Members of the Bike Rack group–and Eric Sack of Lowell Makes–surveying locations downtown with City of Lowell staff.

The wildcard group ultimately split into two smaller groups, each pursuing a project. The Artistic Bike Rack group was composed of members of the Lowell Bicycle Coalition and others who were interested in the idea of promoting bicycling and art downtown. Their idea was to install one or more bike racks that would be works of art in their own right and provide a safe spot to park bicycles.

They set their first meeting soon after the summit, and sketched out a plan of what they would need as soon as possible: funding, design guidelines, a call for artists, and locations. Each group member pursued one of those action items. The group had regular meetings between once and twice a month so that members could update on progress along with setting up a “google group” so that any one member could email all the other members in the group.

With an initial push to get basic introductory text put together as soon as possible, that text was used to set up a GoFundMe page in which the group has raised more than $1,500, and a winning grant application to the Lowell Cultural Council (and several other grant applications). The group recently closed their call for artists and formed a partnership with Great Lowell Technical High School, who may fabricate the bicycle racks with artist designs if the artist is unable.

View from Christian Hill


Over thirty people shared snacks and spotted Boston landmarks such as the Prudential building.

The View from Christian Hill group was the other wildcard group, and they successfully organized a viewing party at the reservoir of Christian Hill. The group was small, but the idea was simple: bring a few telescopes to the reservoir, print out a few guides of interesting sights one can see from the hill, bring some food, and advertise via Facebook and word of mouth. This drew more than 30 people to the hill, talking about the neighborhood, meeting neighbors for the first time, and learning more about DIY Lowell.

With the overview of groups complete, our next posts will dive into different lessons each project group is learning along with the lessons we’re learning as a fledgling organization. We hope you’ll stay tuned! We welcome any questions and suggestions for future posts.