For a year, Ryan Rinn's office was a park bench. Sometimes it was his car, or the Fire House 15 cafe operated by the nonprofit Boaz & Ruth. As a community organizer in Highland Park, that was exactly where he wanted to be, he says: "listening to people who live there, whose neighborhood it's been for 40 years."
It isn't the job of organizers to point out all the problems in a community, Rinn believes. Rather, their role is to help residents identify the solutions they already have.
In May, Rinn became the interim executive director of the Storefront for Community Design, a nonprofit that connects urban communities with architecture and design professionals. The Storefront holds workshops to help Richmond neighborhoods re-imagine themselves, provides pro bono logo and design plans for businesses and nonprofits, and offers free classes, such as a recent series on home ownership in partnership with the Better Housing Coalition.
The Storefront also runs the Middle of Broad studio, which recruits art and design students from Virginia Commonwealth University to work on big projects, such as redesigning the psychiatric ward at the VCU Medical Center. "All of these things are making our city better," Rinn says. "I've only been here for 13 years, but Richmond is really in a place I've never seen before."
Rinn lives in Byrd Park, where you'll often find him catching trout and catfish at Shields Lake. He's the guy carrying extra rods and teaching neighborhood children how to fish.