The Harmonium Project is a nonprofit devoted to urban revitalization and strengthening the bonds of community. We serve those around us through music, art, theater, and the organization of festivals and celebrations.
We got started in the heart of the Rust Belt for a reason. Here, the hopelessness, decay, and poverty of economic decline are more starkly delimited than anywhere else in the country. And yet, here there is a raw beauty, an innocence, and a toughness that we have learned to love and admire. For us, revitalization means respecting and joining the community that we serve, preserving its strengths and character. We believe that only our city can teach us what revitalization for our city looks like.
“Urban revitalization”, for the Harmonium Project, means just how it translates: the breathing in of new life to a city. We want to give Steubenville, Ohio, our home, a sense of geographic center, a common identity, a feeling of quickening and purposefulness. Animation. Life.
We believe that economic and social decline have their roots in indifference. The explosive wealth of strip-mining and steel refining was chosen here with a deliberate disregard for the long-term consequences. When that wealth dried up overnight, the Ohio Valley reeled, but chose more of the same. Indifference to the city’s fate let the lucky and talented flee to New York or Florida. Indifference to the plight of others enabled the drug epidemic. Indifference to social bonds and customs isolated the survivors from each other, each stranded behind a locked front door.
Over the years, we’ve discovered a transformative power that reverses the pain and tragedy of indifference: joy. We’ve discovered joy in music, in art, in street dances, in theater. We’ve seen it light up tired faces, erase class and race divisions, bring a glow of laughter to a whole block. We’ve seen the homeless dance and the chair-bound sing. Joy has utterly changed this city. And we mean to keep it going.