Claire Nelson has always admired Philadelphia. The city's underdog mentality and strong local pride felt akin to Detroit, where she's lived for the past 15 years.
"I feel like Philly, Detroit and NOLA and so many other cities I love have similar spirits," Nelson says.
But with that pride comes one problem: Less-than welcoming environments.
"There are slightly different dynamics in each place but I feel that, they have high percentages of population who are natives to the cities. And I know that in Detroit, for a long time I felt very frustrated because it wasn't welcoming enough to new people," says Nelson.
She hopes to change that mentality with the Urban Consulate, a so-called pop-up parlor in Philadelphia, Detroit, and New Orleans that's funded by the Knight Cities Foundation. The goal is to encourage dialogue among both local urbanites and out-of-towners—a forum of sorts to discuss the changing landscape and concerns of each city.
"We’re not afraid of slightly uncomfortable conversations because those need to happen as well," says Nelson.
Here's how it works in Philly: The pop-up parlor takes place in a different location (for now they'll be hosted in hotel lobbies) on the first Thursday of every month. Each event features speakers, followed by a hopefully lengthy discussion over drinks and food—emphasis on the discussion part.
"Personally, I'm tired of sitting and listening to people talk—there are plenty of forms for that," says Nelson. "What we need more of is that exchange. The hope is to make the presentations shorter and the conversations longer."
At the upcoming Urban Consulate meeting in Philly in May, for example, Nelson will be one of the speakers, joined by local Dwayne Wharton of the Food Trust and a Minneapolis mural artist named Joan Vorderbruggen, whose work resembles that of Philly's Mural Arts Program.
The next Urban Consulate meeting in Philly is Thursday, May 5 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Le Meridian Hotel.