It's a generational fear -- the idea that, after you're gone, future generations will not only fail to pick up where you left off, but actually let things slide. It'll be like all your good works never even existed. On a larger scale, it translates to regional unease, something that has become Jack Storey's specialty.
For the past six months, and for at least the next six, Storey's company, Saving Cities, is chronicling the revival of the Rust Belt, the industrial area that spans the nebulous geography between central New York and Illinois and includes St. Louis in its farthest reaches. The eventual result will be Red, White & Blueprints, a documentary set for release early next year, which Storey hopes will highlight local efforts to cure the unease by rekindling some of the region's most overlooked areas.
"We're trying to prevent apathy at a very broad level," says Storey, a 29-year-old Cleveland native. "People love their cities, but they don't know where to start. Cities aren't just for community organizers. People live in them. There's involvement that doesn't involve PhDs."
The plan is to highlight projects that do that on their own: local companies and organizations whose mission statements focus on improving their communities. Storey and the three other core members of Saving Cities pled the company's case on kickstart.org; they're now using the money donated online to fund flights, hotel stays and equipment for their trip.
Saving Cities' two-week tour of the Rust Belt begins June 1-3 with a filming stop in St. Louis. The St. Louis section of the Red, White & Blueprints will center on Jeff and Randy Vines, the creators of STL-Style, an apparel company devoted to celebrating the city through T-shirts. The company's motto is echoed in the signature line of Vines' emails: "You can't spell STYLE without STL."
Saving Cities' time in St. Louis will begin with a tour of the city, courtesy of the Vines brothers, and will continue with other local interviews.
"We hope to inspire people," Randy Vines says. "It's not easy to be committed to any city, much less one that has a lot of problems and has kind of declined over a few decades." Still, he concludes, "These are places that matter."
For the record, this won't be Storey's first time in St. Louis. His introduction to the city actually began years ago with an empty tank of gas. "I was doing that thing where young teenagers do and run away from home after high school, and I drove my car as far as I could go until I had no more money, and I was in Granite City," Storey says. "I just slept in people's basements and made friends and fell in love with the city."