18 Dec Grants at Work: Raising the Flag
By Wendy Skellenger | Hutchinson Community Foundation
In Wichita, it’s everywhere.
On cups, on T-shirts, on lapels, on business logos, on TV ads for car dealerships – wherever one may look, the city’s colors show proud.
In Hutchinson, for a group of passionate residents, it was an inspiration.
The Wichita flag’s renaissance in recent years – growing into what has become a rallying symbol for civic pride and, as The Chung Report calls it, “the design-language” of the city – helped ignite a grassroots campaign to create and adopt a new city flag for Hutchinson.
And after a nine-month organization, funding, community engagement and design process, the new Hutchinson flag now flies.
But it’s not really about having a flag.
It’s about uniting a community.
“If people are unified and have a positive outlook on the future of Hutchinson, it will be easier to address the challenges our community faces today,” said Jackson Swearer, member of the Raising the Flag Steering Committee. “We need people to collaborate and to volunteer their time and energy to make progress on tough issues. A flag will not fix our problems, but having a symbol to rally around might help us all work together to make Hutchinson a better place for everyone to live, work and play.”
As a city confronting the same disruptions rumbling through so many communities across the United States – difficult-to-solve challenges such as lost jobs, government debt, blight, drug abuse and poverty – civic pride and identity can wane. But those things are important for a town; indeed, Hutchinson’s Comprehensive Plan emphasizes the importance of place and identity and the need for unique, consistent community branding.
And as residents recently learned at a Strong Towns presentation in October at the Fox Theatre, sometimes smaller, incremental improvements over time and doing the next smallest thing to address problems can provide meaningful impact.
A group of residents voluntarily uniting over a shared desire to create a new flag that might itself promote unity and pride is a perfect example, then, of that next smallest thing.
Springing from a Feb. 20 Facebook conversation about the possibility of a Hutchinson city flag, a group of 20 first met in late February. Participants reviewed Roman Mars’ 2015 “TED Talk” on good flag design along with the principles set forth by the North American Vexillological Association. As it turns out, text or complex imagery should be avoided in favor of the clean, simple designs of the world’s most impacting and iconic flags.
The committee then applied for, and in April received, a $2,500 Make It Greater grant that funded the entire process, from organization to marketing to flag production. From there, announcements were made on social media and via newspaper and radio about three public input sessions in late July at different times, dates and locations around Hutchinson.
After the public weighed in on its vision for a city flag, a call for design entries went out to residents through newspaper and social media on Aug. 29. Once the Sept. 30 deadline past, a five-person design selection panel assembled to assess the 52 anonymous entries.
The committee chose Jason Depew’s submission of a yellow eight-point compass rose set against a blue background, with vertical gold and white stripes running along the flag’s left side. A $750 prize was offered to the winner; however, Depew chose to donate the prize back to the Raising the Flag committee to help with expenses.
Efforts like the one undertaken by the Raising the Flag group epitomize the ideals of Make It Greater grants, those awards smaller in dollar amount aimed at strengthening the community by:
- Bringing people together and providing opportunities for positive social interaction and benefit through volunteer work or community-building efforts.
- Connecting people to the environment around them in new ways to increase community pride and identity.
- Building on our communities’ assets and unique qualities through placemaking.
The Raising the Flag project did all of those things, and on Dec. 4, the Hutchinson City Council officially adopted the new design.
“We all had to work together to make this a success,” Swearer said. “It was amazing to see how many people were interested in this project and who got involved. A lot of people volunteered their time to get us to where we are now. We didn’t always agree about everything, but by working through our disagreements to reach consensus, we were able to find a process that led us to a great flag that is for the community, by the community.”
Wendy Skellenger is communications officer at Hutchinson Community Foundation. Email: email@example.com.
ABOUT THE FLAG
“The design that was chosen in my opinion was because of the simplicity of the design. It also followed all the design principles that we were looking for in a design. The meaning behind the colors were straight and to the point which I think the committee also was looking for in a design.”
SPOTTED IN USE
From the Hutchinson City Council’s adoption of it on Dec. 4 to flying alongside the U.S. and Kansas flags at the 23rd Avenue and Severance Street roundabout to merchandise at Hutchinson businesses and even to a trip to New York City, the flag’s profile climbs higher and higher.
Photos by Hutchinson Community Foundation and courtesy of the Raising the Flag Facebook page and Greg Holmes.