Public life brings us together in common activity: cheering on the school sports team, enjoying Sunday dinner at a favorite restaurant, shopping at a local store. In these public spaces we conduct business, swap recipes, discuss issues of the day, relax with  friends, and welcome newcomers to town. Public life knits together the diverse elements of a community and fosters a sense  of civic responsibility. But longer job commutes, greater popularity of home entertainment, and online shopping mean more time spent privately and fewer opportunities to get together. To retain vitality, communities must continually nurture their traditional gathering places and invent fresh opportunities to enjoy the company of others.

In the 1950s Pitkin’s Corner in downtown Mount Vernon offered a place for everyone to see and be seen. Courtesy Janis Johnson, The Artist’s Eye

A public bench outside Gambier’s Village Market provides an informal space to meet up and engage with passersby. Courtesy Dan McMahon